What Pakistan needs to tell the US — I

Published: October 14, 2010
The writer served as chief of naval staff from 1997-99 

The writer served as chief of naval staff from 1997-99 [email protected]

The upcoming Pakistan-US strategic dialogue must honestly address the divergent strategic perceptions, imperatives and compulsions of the two countries. After the last meeting, officials in Washington claim that a trust deficit exists. What are the determinants of this trust deficit? Who is saying one thing and doing another? Who is hiding what and why? One or both partners must now come clean if the partnership is to respond to the genuine needs of their people.

The overriding compulsion of a superpower is to deny freedom of action to a challenger. This is an understandable and expected American strategic aim. It is currently manifested in containing a rampant China, the only possible challenger on the horizon. Pakistan facilitated America’s stated mission to remove the Taliban government and hunt down al Qaeda. But the American mission has broadened and morphed into a very different strategic direction, while the Pakistanis have been grappling with the harsh reality of violence at home.

Pakistanis are now worried about their position in America’s containment strategy vis-à-vis China, and the co-opting of India into it. Many think that their country is being destablised so that India can stand up to China and eventually, America and India can work together to cut off China’s trade corridor through Pakistan. The trust deficit starts from this perceived American strategic shift. This fundamental divergence is the elephant in the dialogue that the Pakistani foreign minister and the army chief can no longer gloss over.

The trust deficit is reinforced by the fact that America is more than willing to spend over $100 billion a year on the war in Afghanistan but not even a fraction of that on weaning potential Taliban and al Qaeda recruits away from a life of militancy, by approving legislation to put in place the much-hyped — initially at least — reconstruction opportunity zones in Fata. There is no talk either of access for Pakistani products to American markets and no disbursement yet of the Kerry-Lugar funds. Furthermore, facilitation of US strategy is destroying Pakistan’s economy and its polity without any offsetting gains.

The US president has set a July 2011 deadline for exiting Afghanistan but the ground reality is that fortress-like missions are being built in Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar. Is Pakistan supposed to believe that the contain-China strategy will also end in July 2011?

Now coming to India — the Pakistanis know that India will never stand up to China on America’s behalf. This means, in all honesty, that the Pakistanis impress upon the Americans the fact that the Indians are already achieving their strategic ends (especially with regard to Pakistan) through Washington and not via China. Proof of this is America’s silence on human rights abuses in Indian Kashmir, while continuing to put pressure on Pakistan on nuclear and other related issues.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Oct 14, 2010 - 11:43PM

    Really? “America and India can work together to cut off China’s trade corridor through Pakistan” How much of China’s trade passes through Pakistan? This is a strategic analysis that helps us feel good about ourselves though hardly true. America may want to “contain” China, but given that China is now America’s largest trading partner, and that China is the worlds largest holder of American sovereign debt, Pakistan’s position and role is rather minuscule as compared to 240 odd yearly trade deficits and billions and billions more of Treasury bill papers.

    Pakistan has its own problems to solve, the strategic dialogue should focus on our peoples needs and solutions to it, rather than hyperanalyzing and situating Pakistan at the centre of every strategic equation, that gives our military types a nice ego boost.

    This will be another strategic dialogue, full of vague promises, and back door negotiations where most Pakistanis will have no idea of what is going on. Conveniently, and as has become the norm, for right wing commentators and retired military officers, you have placed the blame at America’s door, rightly so. But say nothing of the failure of the Pakistani state to tackle any of the problems and concerns that you have listed out. Recommend

  • Usama Zafar
    Oct 15, 2010 - 3:29AM

    Nadir I can’t tell you how much I love to read ur posts!!!Recommend

  • Barekzai
    Oct 15, 2010 - 4:58AM

    Pakistan is a non-nation and a failed state that serves as an expression of the Punjabi dominated military only. It’s time we demand liberty for the oppressed Pakhtuns and Baluch who’ve been yearning to manage their own destinies for well over a century.Recommend

  • Noor Nabi
    Oct 15, 2010 - 7:31AM

    Pearls of wisdom from yet another ex-uniform wallah. The armed forces of Pakistan have broken the economic backbone of the country. Let us not forget the shameful surrender in 1971. Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Oct 15, 2010 - 9:03AM

    This sort of a megalomanical analysis that puts Pakistan in the center of some “great game” between the US, China, and India must stop this minute. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan is receiving attention only because it has nuclear-weapons strapped around its body and threatening to blow itself (and its neighbors) to bits. That, and its strategic position with respect to the other basketcase that is Afghanistan.

    To have any clout, we must first stop depending on handouts from West. After all, beggars can’t be choosers. Until we can stand on our own feet financially (and, our people pay their taxes), we will be a perpetual puppet of the West, and mere pawn in the Great Game that major powers like US, China, and India are playing. We don’t need some fancy strategy. We just need to get our house in order through honesty and hard work, and the rest will just fall into place. And, of course, we need to fire these crazy “strategists” who ruin us with their crazy wasteful International posturing and intrigue.


  • Aristo
    Oct 15, 2010 - 10:08AM

    What Pakistan needs to tell the US is: Stop micro-managing Pakistan affairs just because you have the power to do so. Stop supporting TTP and CIA should stop terrorizing Pakistan through blackwater, XE, etc. Give us a marshal plan like Japan and Germany in the tune of US $ 100 billion and in return keep using Jacobabad Air base and Karachi to Khyber supply route for your interests in the region, otherwise do what Turkey has done to them.Recommend

  • Syed
    Oct 15, 2010 - 10:22AM

    for all these current political and security related calamities of Pakistan, our military is equally responsible. Recommend

  • Todd
    Oct 15, 2010 - 11:07AM

    Great article…I want to visit Pakistan (Karimabad, Astore, and Gilgit) in 2011…I love this newspaper because I see another perspective of Pakistan that 90% of America doesn’t understand. This article also reinforces my thought that we all have the same issues that affect us.Recommend

  • Ultimate
    Oct 15, 2010 - 11:25AM

    No one needs to destroy pakistan, it ll destroy by itself. Pakistan has enormous problems. Instead of focussing on india, if they have focussed on their country, it would’ve developed so much. And no need to be at knees for support from china and america. There is saying ‘if you use a weapon against anyone, that weapon alone will kill you. CIA and isi trained alqeuda. Now thats is destroying pakistan and usa. Funny? Britain succeded in preventing the development in pakistan. That was the plan when they separated india. Recommend

  • faraz
    Oct 15, 2010 - 12:02PM

    Our obsession with geostrategy has lead us to the disastrous situations that we are in today. We delude ourselves of our strategic importance – trade corridor to China passes through us, potential trade route to Central Asia passes through us and this could be used to strangle Russia, Afghanistan has trillions of dollors worth natural resources, we defeated Soviet Union a feat which Napoleon and Hitler couldnt achieve, US wants military bases at Gawadar, Karachi and azad kashmir, numerous potential oil pipeline routes pass through pakistan, we saved India from Soviet invasion, there is oil and gas in Waziristan, US wants to annex Balochistan, the world wants to geographically encircle this great citadel of islam ! Recommend

  • ali hamdani
    Oct 15, 2010 - 6:16PM

    The relation between Pakistan and the USA counts a lot on the stability of Pakistan and the region. We must cash them as a good opportunity to eradicate terrorists from our land.Recommend

  • eraj danish
    Oct 15, 2010 - 6:21PM

    It is important we take support from all forces and eradicate the terrorist from Pakistan. Only then shall we be a clean nation.Recommend

  • ADE
    Oct 15, 2010 - 7:45PM

    @Barekzai ……please go back to Afghanistan. Its people like you who are redundant in this countryRecommend

  • Bangash
    Oct 16, 2010 - 12:15AM

    Why are Pakistanis always so obsessed with grant strategic games even when no such games exist ? The tribal areas of Pakistan are NOT conducive to any investment or trade. Recommend

  • Shariq Saad
    Oct 23, 2010 - 3:16PM

    There are many ocasssions when Pakistani Army has been successful. No one has 100% success rate.One should appreciate the fact that Pakistan Army relentlessly tries to achieve its goals. There is nothing wrong in setting high standards. One may fail but will always stand up and learn from it.

    When was the last time civilian governments tried to do something good for Pakistan. If it was’nt for Pakistani Army we would have lost this precious gift. Its no hidden fact that India has been conniving long to break Balochistan. They cry for Mumbai attacks an quiete conveniently forget that there troops were killed well within Pakistani territory in FATA. Records of which are also available on internet. What has our civil government done. Have our civil government been able to negotiate a single thing. To this day drone attacks are being carried out on a daily basis. Have our civil government been able to stop it.

    For once stop whinning and see for yourself what you civilians have done. Pakistan Army currently have the bragging rights.

    Shariq SaadRecommend

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