Where are Pak-US ties headed?

Published: March 29, 2012

Some tangible proposals have been made and one hopes that a balanced foreign policy will soon be formulated.

The contours of the Pakistan-US alliance have always been crafted in the shadows, away from public debate and scrutiny. For this reason, the visit by two top US generals after the initiation of the parliamentary debate on the future of relations between the two countries was interesting. For two consecutive days, parliament started its debate on this vital matter only to swiftly move on to other matters like the power crisis and violence in Karachi. Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was changing the ground realities of the alliance in his meetings with Centcom Chief General James Mattis and Isaf Commander General John Allen.

This was the first meeting between the generals from the two countries after the Salala incident that severely strained ties. Since then, the Pakistan military has been publicly critical of the US, demanding an unconditional apology for the Salala attack. Although few details have been released about these meetings, one can read between the lines and look at it as the start of a détente. The Pakistan military realises that the US holds the advantage in this face-off. The army is almost entirely reliant on American aid to provide it weaponry and technical assistance. As such, breaking off ties with the US, no matter how wounded the military’s feelings are, is not an option. Recall, after all, that it was the military that first granted permission to the US to conduct drone strikes in the tribal areas. This meeting should, thus, be seen as the first step to a reset in relations between Pakistan and the US.

Some argue that foreign relations, as with everything else, should be the domain of the civilians not those in uniform. But the fact of the matter is that the government for its part has been discussing this issue in parliament, although its progress has been detracted because of the ongoing violence in Karachi. However, some tangible proposals have been made and one hopes that a balanced foreign policy — which addresses Pakistan’s concerns over sovereignty and America’s concerns of national security — will soon be formulated.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Harry Stone
    Mar 30, 2012 - 12:24AM

    How can this be an issue over PAK sovereignty when the government of PAK exercises no control over the area along the border with Afghanistan? That is the problem US/NATO has with this entire issue. It would be one thing if PAK did control these areas then this discussion might have some merit. This is no different than PAK claiming sovereignty over southern Tajikistan As it is now it is about PAK pride or more to the point hurt pride. It started with Raymond Davis deciding not be a victim like those reported today; to the finding of OBL located outside of a major military post; to the border incident with NATO forces; to the continued drone attacks.

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  • SM
    Mar 30, 2012 - 1:51AM

    @Harry Stone:
    US national security has no purpose in Asia. The US needs to roll back to its borders and stop pretending it has business poking its nose in area where its borders are not even located.

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  • Cautious
    Mar 30, 2012 - 3:36AM

    and one hopes that a balanced foreign
    policy — which addresses Pakistan’s
    concerns over sovereignty and
    America’s concerns of national
    security — will soon be formulated.

    Sounds grand — any thoughts on what that might entail? From my perspective the American’s have made it abundantly clear what they expect from Pakistan. You hold the tribal territories as part of Pakistan and it’s your responsibility to control what happens in that region – if people are using that territory to attack your neighbors and allies it’s YOUR responsibility to stop them – if you can’t or won’t then the American’s have every right to defend themselves and eliminate that threat. The American’s has asked you time and time again to handle this matter and your response has been – “we will, when were ready”. So are you finally ready?

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  • MarkH
    Mar 30, 2012 - 4:45AM

    @SM:
    Good thing you’re not the one who makes that decision. Nobody who knows what they’re talking about could say there’s no purpose of being in that area when borders are elsewhere. It’s not like Al Qaeda came from Canada or Mexico.

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  • Cautious
    Mar 30, 2012 - 5:41AM

    @SM. American’s wouldn’t be in Pakistan or Afghanistan if it were not for 911 – both Afghanistan and Pakistan were use as training grounds for Al Qaeda. I doubt your going to convince the American’s that they don’t have a security interest in this region.

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  • American
    Mar 30, 2012 - 6:31AM

    @SM:
    When Pakistan borders bred Terrorists travel to India, Indonesia, UK, and USA, whose borders are you talking about ? Pakistani borders or Terrorist’s borders ?
    If the affected countries send their armies to Pakistani borders, what is wrong with that ?
    Are you saying that Pakistan will send terrorists to Mumbai and Kashmir and UK and USA…and all those countries must defend their countries, within their borders only ?
    You don’t know the great disaster that is about to fall on your country….

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  • Pollack
    Mar 30, 2012 - 6:56AM

    Its headed in the only direction it can head in after the discovery of Osama in a safe house in Pakistan, downwards. This will be more obvious after 2014 after the American troops leave the region. Till then, the actors in this drama will play their part to get what they want but it’s all acting. The real story starts only after 2014.

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  • SM
    Mar 30, 2012 - 7:28AM

    @American:
    Right now the Americans are stuck in Afghanistan – You ought to worry about the Saigon type evacuation that will happen soon from there and the economic quagmire the US is stuck in.

    Pakistan is a mess and will be in a further mess – there is no doubt about it but you ought to worry about America.

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  • True North
    Mar 30, 2012 - 7:48AM

    If Pakistanis think it’s tough now, just wait till US and NATO forces leave the region. Pakistan will be the new Iran then. At least Iran has oil. Pakistan has nothing of value.

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  • Harry Stone
    Mar 30, 2012 - 8:44AM

    @Pollack:
    That is a pretty profound statement. It is unfortunate that more of the leadership in PAK do not see the implications of their current actions and potential actions as it relates to the US. PAK should not for one minute think a score card is not being kept in the US. So far on that card is Raymond Davis, OBL, border incident, NATO supply lines, and most of all providing a support base for and the exporting of terrorism. PAK may feel all of these will be overlooked but they will not.

    Then again using your year of 2014, it is possible that PAK will implode by then. There seems little to prevent it.

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  • Toba Alu
    Mar 30, 2012 - 9:46AM

    @American: Regretfully for most Americans history starts with 9/11 for maybe 90% of the Pakistani’s it starts with partition for maybe 10% it starts with the establishment of Ghaznavid Empire a Persianate Muslim dynasty of Turkic slave origin between 963 – 1187. Who were the terrorist in that period and for comparison who were the terrorists during the American civil war in which about 600,000 people perished? Put your borders and thoughts in a historic perspective, otherwise you can prove anything. The only solution is to better educate both Americans and Pakistani. A long way to go.

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  • Feroz
    Mar 30, 2012 - 10:41AM

    The Pomeranian can threaten an Alsation with loud barks but if it tries to bite the contest can only go one way. All weather friends may offer polite sounds and noises but little else.

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  • SM
    Mar 30, 2012 - 5:59PM

    @Harry Stone:
    When did America become the judge, jury and executioner?

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  • Harry Stone
    Mar 30, 2012 - 8:23PM

    @SM:

    I believe the Americans would tell you when you become a threat to their security.

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  • Pollack
    Mar 30, 2012 - 9:08PM

    @SM: in the realm of international politics where a country’s national security is at stake, there is no option than for that country to be the judge, jury and executioner. Not all countries can afford to be all three but the US is one country which can do that. Do you want the US to go to the UN to solve its national security issues where there is no set standard for admission for members? What do you think will be the outcome from such an institution? Just take a look at the state of human rights in the countries who are members of the UN human rights council and you will know what I meant when I said there is no set standards in UN for admission.

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  • Pollack
    Mar 30, 2012 - 9:19PM

    @Harry Stone: I agree with your point about the Americans having a long memory. History has proved that they do and countries which play games with should remember that. Regarding the implosion of Pakistan, I don’t believe that will happen. The Pakistan army wll not allow that to happen despite all it’s flaws and the presence of rouge elements within it. Maintaining security in Pakistan is their bread and butter. They will loose their “special status” if they loose the security plot. They are not wise but are competent.

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  • Mar 30, 2012 - 9:32PM

    We have always maintained that Pakistan is a key player in the region. It has its strategic importance, and our leadership has acknowledged this importance. Years ago, President Obama and Secretary Clinton had both observed that it is important for the United States to maintain a good, supportive relationship with Pakistan, and we had worked diligently on that. We understand that a few incidents in the last year have put a damper on those efforts, but we have to agree that our cooperation has yielded many good results in the past, one of them being the capture and elimination of many known terrorist leaders.

    Dear Readers, you must realize that the United States, as one of the leading countries in the world, has always without hesitation responded to many calamities in any part of the world. In the recent past, we have seen the US in action in the wake of the Japanese tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, and the Indonesian tsunami, not to mention the Pakistani earthquake of 2005 and the devastating floods in 2010. As we are compassionate to other people’s suffering, we are also bound by our constitution to protect our people. When attacked or when our people are killed, and our properties destroyed, we will not sit idle. We will go after the people who have attacked us. That is what brought us to your region -the Al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11.

    Going forward, it is important for both countries to join together, and give the last blow to a few terrorist organizations that are still lingering on, attacking innocent Pakistanis. This is necessary to bring peace to a region that has been in turmoil for decades.

    Maj David Nevers
    DET-United States Central Command
    http://www.centcom.mil/ur

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  • SM
    Mar 31, 2012 - 6:06AM

    @Pollack:
    @Harry Stone:
    Lets face it – the US is in no shape economically to wage war on Pakistan or Iran. The Iraq and Afghan wars and the economic morass the US is in has ensured that the US can only us its considerable diplomatic might to push its weight around but militarily if there was an option, the US would have already tackled Iran.

    The US also knows that there is no solution to Pakistan militarily when it comes to toeing the US line. China and Russia both want the US out of the region – that is for sure and are morally and tacitly supporting the strategic defiance Pakistan is putting up on US diktat re: Afghanistan and the supply routes.

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  • SM
    Mar 31, 2012 - 7:37AM

    @US CENTCOM:
    Your government often talks about how the military of other countries has no business in shaping public views… why is the US CENTCOM monitoring and responding to discussion forums, on Pakistani papers. Go present your views on the NY Times or Washington Post or the LA Times.

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