Emerging Pakistan-USA Relations

Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal

(August 20, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) India suffers not only from a superiority complex, but also always “fears” something to happen to itself. Power struggle and power game in Pakistan and Bangladesh ”cause” fear in New Delhi and it very loudly talks about it, although it is a known fact that Indian intelligence has been working to destabilize its neighbors and more importantly Pakistan. Now it wants to use USA to help fulfill its historic ambition. Pakistani politicians Zardari and Sharif called the resignation of president Musharraf the victory of people and dictatorship is gone and Pakistan will now embark upon a path of Islamic transition.

But the most important issue concerning Pakistan’s future role in the world and region is its relationship with USA, the traditional partner and ally, importantly because of the flirting of India towards Washington. For USA seeking to assert its military superiority world over, nothing is unholy. But Pakistan, under threat from India and US-controlled Afghanistan, any regional realignment could impact negatively on its future course and it is important to study, its policies have to be prudent too. USA can even ruin Pakistan if it desires so in the era of “terrorism”.


The exit of President Pervez Musharraf from the political stage in Pakistan opens up an era of both possibilities and risks for the country. The alliance that came to power after the elections in February will now really have to get to grips with its biggest challenges - a possible economic meltdown and the growing militant threat in the north-western tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. If they fail, it may spell the end of the hopes of Pakistan ever becoming a successful Islamic republic and not just an Islamic democracy. For the successful conduct of domestic policies, Pakistan has to reset its foreign policy as per the need to take this fractured country to greater heights and brighter lights.

For quite some time now, Pakistan has been talking at length about democracy as opposed to military regime. But even after Musharraf shed his uniform the situation remained the same. A former military general is not fit to be the president of Pakistan, according to neo-democrats of Pakistan. Democracy is a vague concept propounded by the US-led West for their own good. Islamic nations have to cultivate the Islamic way of life without feeling shy of Islam.

As per suggestions, Musharraf has done enough for Pakistan in various capacities. Distortion of the constitution, manufactured political groups that supported him, insurgency in Afghanistan, Talibanization in the northwestern frontier region and a structurally weak economy all count against him. Musharraf justified his 1999 coup by saying that nuclear-armed Pakistan was on the verge of being declared a terrorist state and an economic basket case after the chaotic rule of then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He then abandoned Pakistan's support for Afghanistan's “hardline” Taliban regime and joined the US-led "war on terror" after the September 11, 2001 attacks, bringing an influx of US aid money into the country.

US-led Terror War

The threat of a new Cold War with the Russians has been making headlines around the world, but the upheaval in Islamabad is potentially even more destabilizing. Something in the Musharraf approach clearly struck a chord with George W Bush - at a practical level it would have been almost impossible for the US to conduct effective operations in Afghanistan without the co-operation of neighboring Pakistan. On the face of it, that made Pervez Musharraf a familiar figure on the American political stage - the military strongman who while not himself a democrat, was nonetheless a keen supporter of the world's most powerful democracy and whose support was rewarded with American aid - around $10bn in this case.

Now there is the resignation of Pervez Musharraf - the Pakistani military strongman who ignored the differences of opinion within his turbulent Muslim country and declared it to be an ally of the United States in the "war on terror". He is not the first such figure to alienate huge sections of his own population in pursuit of Washington's approval and friendship. But the Pakistani leader's personal style dovetailed neatly with the Bush approach to politics too - both men liked the idea of following simple strategies based on big ideas, rather than troubling themselves with the detailed issues of day-to-day politics.

Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is in the hands of the army and the army is not changing hands, so whatever the situation was before is largely what it will continue to be. It is a sobering thought for Americans that even under a pro-Western military strongman, Pakistan to some extent faced both ways in the "war on terror". Under a democratically-elected coalition government, the country might become an even more complex and ambiguous partner.


Pakistan is probably the most difficult issue the next president will face. It is both a victim of “terrorism” unhealthy alliance between USA fighting to kill the Muslims in Arab world. The reason why Pakistan is so different - and so difficult - for the United States is because within its own institutions of power there are competing impulses about where the country's true interests lie.

People in Pakistan are intolerably annoyed with the brutal killings of Muslims in Pakistan. That has to be balanced against the fact that Pakistani agents have arrested hundreds of al-Qaeda suspects in recent years, including a number of key players who were handed on into US custody.

In the fractious and sometimes dangerous world of Pakistani politics, the coalition may well find itself pre-occupied with its own survival. And it will have to be mindful of a strong streak of anti-Americanism in Pakistan which is not entirely confined to Islamic fundamentalists. President Bush, and whoever follows him into the White House, will need to be subtle and determined if they are to keep the new Pakistan somehow involved in the America-led alliance which fights the "war on terror". Pakistani Army is deployed in the tribal areas around the country's border with Afghanistan - but there have been signs lately that the Americans say they do not believe they are getting good value out of this proxy war.

Many Pakistanis in turn resent the idea that their army is being paid to operate on behalf of the United States. A future President Obama or President McCain might complicate the situation by stepping up American deployment in Afghanistan and raise the profile of the US campaign there. It has been the policy of US president to “deal” with trouble spots around the world and the US-Pakistan ties will be intact.

President Bush was quick to stress the importance to America of working with the new Pakistani leadership, but the challenge for the next president is to persuade the new regime in Islamabad to remain focused on the "war on terror". The American hope is that a democratically-elected government will be a more natural partner than a military dictatorship, but it is far from certain that things will work out that way.

Displaying faith in the democratically elected government of Pakistan, the US has rejected suggestions that the ouster of former President and key US ally Pervez Musharraf will a lead to a power vacuum in the country. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the situation in Pakistan is "fragile", but the government is democratically elected and will continue to receive US assistance.

A Word

The more optimistic view is that Sharif and Zardari have compelling reasons to bury their differences and work towards the common good of the nation in consideration of the fact that Musharraf has quit presidency with a view not to further help the anti-Islamic forces across the borders and beyond destabilize the Islamic nation, although he has not mentioned that in plain words. He has got the experience tosee throgugh the games the "democaries" play in the world.

[ The writer is a Researcher in International Affairs, South Asia)
- Sri Lanka Guardian