Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

US-Pakistan Relations since 2009: 'Do More' versus 'No More' Deadlock in Afghanistan

Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

US-Pakistan Relations since 2009: 'Do More' versus 'No More' Deadlock in Afghanistan

Article excerpt


The US-Pakistan relationship has been a unique, complex and abnormal one. What has been a significant factor in the US-Pakistan relations is that American policy towards Pakistan has fluctuated in response to several global and regional geopolitical changes. The US has followed both engagement and containment policies, termed as carrots and sticks respectively, towards Pakistan.

Pakistan's foreign policy has been historically shaped by the structural determinants of being a major US ally, a fact that has often raised its strategic profile. Its unique geographic location, huge population, nuclear arsenal and world's sixthlargest army, and standing in the Muslim world have given Pakistan a substantial diplomatic and strategic heft. With its capacity further enhanced by the US patronage, the Pakistan army has become a dominant player in the nation's political life. The US has hired Pakistan's leadership from time to time for the advancement of its strategic interests, and in exchange for its crucial support, Pakistan's ruling elite has hired Washington for military aid and economic assistance to bankroll undemocratic and unaccountable governance.

From the very beginning, the US-Pakistan relationship was built upon shaky and dubious foundation. Pakistani diplomats successfully deceived American policymakers into forging an anti-communist alliance. However, as former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, has demonstrated, the primary Pakistani motivation for drawing the US into South Asia was to balance India's military power.1 Pakistan joined the West-sponsored military alliances like the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), becoming the 'most allied ally of the US'.

Despite the fundamental mismatch of mutual expectations, the US-Pakistan alliance served both sides well in the initial years of the Cold War. Islamabad succeeded in getting enormous quantity of US assistance for military and economic purposes. America's diplomatic support on the contentious issue of Kashmir was the icing on the cake for Pakistan. In turn, the US acquired access to vital military bases in Pakistan, from which it could carry out aerial surveillance of critical areas of the USSR. However, the relationship, which became cliental and increasingly transactional, witnessed downturn when the US refused Pakistan's request to provide military assistance in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Despite the fact that the US withheld military supplies to both India and Pakistan during the war, Pakistani politicians cried betrayal and whipped up public frenzy against the US. In the wake of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the US once again failed to bail out Pakistan. Although the Nixon administration demonstrated remarkable tilt towards Pakistan, nothing substantial was done by the US to prevent Pakistan's dismemberment into two parts. Although it is a well-known fact that the most important reason for which Pakistan had joined the US camp was to counter India, Pakistan's so-called grudge against the US for not supporting Pakistan against India in 1965 and 1971 is misplaced. It must not be forgotten that the US treaty obligations to Pakistan were essentially in the context of Communist threat to Pakistan's security. As Pakistan faced no such threat in either 1965 or 1971, the US did not feel obliged to come to Pakistan's help.

Notwithstanding the distrust, cooperation again became the dominant theme in the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The US considered the Soviet invasion as further expansion of the communist influence in the region. The strategy to use the mujahideen to bleed the Soviets in Afghanistan was originally devised by the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul Haq, and later sold to the US. The US-Pakistan alliance during this phase undoubtedly helped Washington win the Cold War but under the shadow of sinister forces of Islamist radicalism that would later come to haunt the entire world. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.