In a recent speech on Afghan policy, President Trump accused Pakistan of not doing enough in Afghanistan and demanded the country “do more” or face the consequences.
Pakistan was defensive. They argued that they have already sacrificed thousands of lives and should be acknowledged for their loss in the war. It would seem the United States is worried about the loss of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives of its soldiers in Afghanistan and wants to blame Pakistan for its failure.
But there are two other reasons why the United States has become aggressive.
Firstly, Pakistan is an important partner in China’s One-Belt and One Road project — considered the Marshall Plan for Asia. One of the most important corridors of that project is located in Pakistan. This project will not only benefit China but also Pakistan.
Secondly, there is concern about Pakistan’s nuclear and missile capability — a point Trump mentioned multiple times in his speech.
These two projects have concerned Western allies, but are key to Pakistan’s prosperity.
So, what will Pakistan do now? Will it bow down or stand up to the United States?
There’s no doubt that Pakistan and U.S. have had a troubled relationship.
In the early 50’s, the newly-formed Pakistan followed the example of other British colonies and jumped into the lap of the United States. But the U.S. did not respond in kind.
Although Pakistan was a Western ally in the Cold War, it was barred from receiving U.S. military aid — an issue which did not sit well with Pakistan’s M. Ali’s government.
But the most important moment came when Pakistan went to war with India in 1965.
It was the first real test of the relationship between Pakistan and the United States.
During this time, the U.S. again stopped Pakistan’s military aid. The move left Pakistan in shock. It may have been the first time Pakistan felt so betrayed. Then foreign minister of Pakistan, Mr. Bhutto, lashed out at U.S. officials, using explicit language to criticize the decision.
The third historical moment happened in the 70’s when the country split into two.
During that time, their relationship deteriorated. At one stage, then Prime Minister Mr. Bhutto was reportedly threatened by the U.S. which said it would make Pakistan a “horrible example” for the world.
Bhutto’s execution as part of the U.S.’ beleaguered interventionist policy did not improve the relationship. And so the mistrust continued.
The fourth turning point in Pakistan’s history came in 1980’s when the U.S. waged war against USSR and declared Pakistan a “criminal partner.”
Although their relationship tentatively improved, it was still based on mutual distrust. The then head of the state, Zia-Ul-Haq (considered a U.S. puppet), was also once heard saying, “the United States never stood by its allies when the chips were down.”
After 90’s, the issue of Pakistan’s nuclear capability continued to strain the relationship.
This was not helped by the deal to acquire F-16 aircrafts. According to the CIA, this was a “yardstick” to measure the relationship between the two countries.
Pakistan was unable to acquire the technology. Talks to receive the aircraft are now on the way with India. This could kill the last hopes of normalising relations between the two countries.
Famous scholar Hilali sums up Pakistan-United States relationship as: opportunistic — with Pakistan losing out.
He says: “The United States … took advantage of Pakistan’s desperate need for military and economic assistance.” He further argues that, “Because Pakistan was the weaker partner in the relationship, its interests were sacrificed.”
But while Pakistan endures threats and mistrust from the United States, countries like Syria and North Korea are demonstrating the importance of defiance, dignity and sovereignty.
Pakistan may be tempted to leave its unequal relationship with the United States and join the alternative club with Russia and China.