Is it time for Pakistan to reconsider the US as its ally?

Countries progress on trade, not on aid. It is time for Pakistan to change its alliances and look closer to home.

Farooq Yousaf December 27, 2013
Close to 50,000 deaths, over $100 billion in losses, and growing insecurity and fear among the citizens with each passing day.

These are few of the highlights of Pakistan’s involvement in the US-led war on terror that has now been fought for more than 12 years. 

This war which was initiated to target the militants in Afghanistan has haunted and continues to haunt, many innocent civilians, not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan.

The United States, along with its allies, began this war to hunt down the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden and to put an end to the Taliban regime and its activities. However, in spite of the fact that both these motives have been achieved, things have gone from bad to worse in the region.

This raises seemingly obvious questions, the answers to which are also painfully obvious.

How long will this war go on? No one knows.

How many more innocent civilians will Pakistan lose to terrorism? Very few have an idea.

And above all:

Is the alliance with the US really benefiting Pakistan?

That, in my opinion, is the million dollar question we need to be focusing on.

Pakistan has received a total of US$ 15 billion in terms of support and benefits from the United States, as part of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for its role and assistance in the war on terror. But even this CSF is usually released with multiple conditions attached, making it look more like charity than support.

Moreover, Ishaq Dar, Pakistan’s finance minister has recently made a plea to the US ambassador for an early release of the CSF, in order to boost the falling Forex reserves of Pakistan. It would be an understatement to say that the situation does not look well for our economy.

These scenarios, rather than establishing Pakistan as an ally, portray it as a mere ‘client’ state for the US.

The implications and signals are simple for Pakistan and these signals point towards the need for a shift in the country’s foreign policy.

With the United States moving out of Afghanistan in 2014, Pakistan must reconsider its alliances – not only for its own stability but also in the larger interest of the region.

Pak-Russia and Pak-China relations

Important regional stakeholders, such as China and Russia, are keenly interested in post-2014 developments in Afghanistan and this interest is not just confined to Kabul. These two powerful states have their eye out for Central Asia as well, where both Russia and China enjoy valuable strategic assets.

With such concerns in place, Pakistan has an important role to play.

It would be in Pakistan’s best interests to latch on the window of economic opportunity presented in this current scenario. This opportunity would require Pakistan to tilt its international policy focus from the West towards the East. After all, China is currently the world’s second largest economy, with an ever expanding pace. A positive and healthy relationship with this economic giant will provide Pakistan with an opportunity to boost its local and global trade.

The Gwadar Port project, if taken seriously this time, could help both countries establish a sea conduit that could also facilitate the land-locked states of Central Asia.

On the other hand, Russia happens to be a global energy giant. Many of Pakistan’s current energy woes could easily be resolved by reaching out to Moscow in a proper and friendly manner. Russia has even offered to invest in Pakistan’s energy sector recently, along with a possible export of 5000 MWs of electricity through Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

Both Russia and China have, time and again, expressed their interest in taking India and Pakistan on board in the successful Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The SCO, which aims at regional support and cooperation, will provide a wide array of development opportunities to Pakistan.

Pak-Iran and Pak-India relations

Iran, with its proposed gas pipeline deal, can also become a positive factor for Pakistan’s economy.

The gas pipeline project, initiated by the previous government – Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – needs to be effectively concluded by the current Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. Both the US and Saudi Arabia – Iran’s ideological foe – are constantly showing their displeasure over the project. Sandwiched between both these powers, Pakistan has to decide on either pleasing them or furthering its own national interest.

Along with these neighbouring states, positive ties with India – Pakistan’s most important immediate neighbour – would also do nothing but good to our security and economy.

Countries mostly progress on trade, not aid.

Russia, China, Central and South Asia jointly boast a population of over three billion. With such a large number of potential consumers, Pakistan’s ruling establishment has to start focusing on economic, rather than strategic gains and begin the process of trade and business with these regional members.

If Islamabad succeeds in reaching out to its Asian markets, it would no longer be in need of any financial aid from its western allies. It is time for Pakistan to change its alliance and look closer to home. We can potentially think of a better, prosperous and brighter future if we play our cards right.
Farooq Yousaf The writer is based in Australia and holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Newcastle, New South Wales. He has previously completed his Masters in Public Policy and Conflict Studies from Germany. He also occasionally consults Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and writes for various news, academic and media sources. His areas of interest and research Indigenous conflict resolution, South Asian history, postcolonialism, and counter insurgency. He tweets @drfarooqyousaf (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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BlackJack | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend It is ironical that a country formed on the basis of ideology is now willing to rent itself out to the highest bidder. Look at the US-China or Japan-China or India-China trade figures - these astronomical numbers have nothing to do with being 'allies'. There isn't a single line in this article which indicates ideological or political reasons on why Pakistan should or shouldn't ally with any of these countries - but the issue is that Pakistan itself does not think along those lines, and that is why you are looking for someone else to take the US place, which is already a first step in the wrong direction. Russia is not going to build you a gas pipeline because they love you - they will happily do so if you can afford to pay; China gets market access to a highly paranoid client state for a couple of empty statements and some outdated hardware - could there be a better deal? What Pakistan probably needs the most is an outside-in approach to the world.
J. Robbins | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend These are all worthy ideas for boosting national cooperation and Pakistan's economy. The United States itself has many trade pacts with Russia and China. Go to any Wal-Mart store, and you will see where everything is coming from. However, many small businesses have suffered or closed because of our imports from China. As to the U.S. being to blame for the insurgents, ask yourselves, Did the US set off bombs in your cities that killed 50,000 innocent people? These were voluntary acts; the US did not force the insurgents to commit these callous crimes. Did the US ever issue 18 pre-conditions to "peace" that included forcing a religion on the Pakistan people that would require their women to wear burkas? And finally, did the US deliberately try to kill a young girl because she wanted an education? Who is your enemy here? Has the US ever said they wanted to take over the Pakistani government? This appears to be one of the major goals of your insurgents. It is the Pakistani Taliban that actually threatens the Pakistani government and the security of its nuclear arsenal. Cause goes back a long ways and blaming the US isn't the answer here. The US isn't perfect, but neither is China or Russia. Our mission has been limited in scope to only what has been necessary to defeat al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda allies. It is probably safe to say that the US longs to get its troops and stuff back home, to use the money spent overseas to boost our own economy and infrastructure. Whatever, the insurgents have taken root, and in agreement with another guest comment, "looking east with extremists in our nests is pointless."
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