Husain Haqqani has again criticized what he called Pakistan’s “falsified narrative” of its foreign policy in an article published in The Print, an online Indian news agency, on 13 February 2018.His remarks were ostensibly in response to Hina Rabbani Khar’s interview with CNN Correspondent Christiane Amanpourin January 2018. He criticized Ms Khar’s statement in which she referred to China as the “only real strategic partner of Pakistan” unlike the United States, and that Pakistan and China have had aconvergence of interests for the last forty years.
As opposed to Haqqani’s remarks, Ms Khar’s analysis is true in the sense that in the 1965 war, the United States did not support Pakistan, and in 1971 war it failed to prevent Pakistan’s dismemberment. Moreover, America has always opposed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program—as evident from the Pressler sanctions imposed in 1990 and other sanctions placed under Glenn Amendment after 1998 nuclear tests and frequently raised the fear of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling in terrorists’ hands.
China, on the other hand, has supported Pakistan steadfastly not only in security matters but also in the diplomatic context. Despite Pakistan’s alliances with the U.S. against communism during the Cold War, China understood Pakistan’s compulsions. In addition, similar threat perception of both China and Pakistan with regard to India has brought them closer.
While the United States has always sought to freeze and even roll back Pakistan’s nuclear program, it was actively engaged with major world powers to get India a de facto nuclear power status especially after the strategic cooperation agreements in 2005. It also facilitated NSG waiver for India in 2008 and has been striving to get India a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. While the United States lobbied for India’s entry in the NSG, China has not only opposed this discriminatory policy of the US but has been supportive of Pakistan’s entry into NSG on the basis of uniform criteria. America’s discriminatory policies have left no choice for Pakistan but to further expand and strengthen its relations with China.
In sharp contrast to America’s perfidious partnership, China has provided Pakistan with peaceful nuclear technology, partnered with it in defence production ventures, especially in indigenous conventional arms build-up, fighter aircraft, tanks, and submarines and surface vessels, and has carried out joint anti-terrorism efforts and military exercises.
China has also made significant investments in Pakistan, epitomized by the mammoth $46 billion investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which will likely make Pakistan a hub of regional trade connecting Pakistan with Central Asia and the energy-rich Persian/Arabian Gulf. This investment by China can go a long way in making Pakistan economically strong.
On the other hand, the United States has invariably pursued a ‘donor’ approach to Pakistan and neither made substantive investments in the country nor enhanced bilateral trade—thus making Pakistan dependent on it with a view to leveraging its foreign policy choices.
Moreover, Haqqani’s argument that Pakistan’s agenda in Afghanistan is different from America’s is not comprehensible, because Pakistan, like any other state in an anarchic world, pursues its own national interests—safeguarding its sovereignty, protecting its territorial integrity and ensuring its political stability and economic wellbeing. As Dr Ilhan Niaz, a respected academician pointed out, Pakistan can never afford to play a pawn in American strategic manoeuvres that harm its national interests.
Mr Haqqani also parroted the Donald Trump’s New Year tweet as regards the much-touted $33 billion US aid to Pakistan since 2001, and repeated the unfair accusation of some Americans that Pakistan has been providing safe havens to terrorists. Albeit, the accusation of safe havens of Taliban in Pakistan holds no ground, especially after the January-2018 BBC report which states that Taliban have an active presence in 70% of Afghanistan districts, and the Afghan government controls only 30% of the Afghan territory.
Indeed, Pakistan has taken a decisive action against the terrorist and militant hide-outs on its soil and eliminated their presence whatsoever, as highlighted by Pakistan’s Army Chief in recent 2018 Munich Security Conference (MSC). In the 2018-MSC, Mr. Bajwa also emphasized on Pakistan’s “relentless and bloody fight against terrorism and violent extremism” in which Pakistan has incurred “monumental human and material cost”, including 35000 deaths, 48000 injured/disabled, and the financial cost of $250 billion, “of which only a fraction has been shared by Pakistan’s allies”. Despite these losses and contribution, expecting Pakistan to do more, the US is only trying to scapegoat Pakistan for its miserable failure in Afghanistan.
Actually, in the post-9/11 era, Pakistan’s contribution to the US War on Terror has been substantial—the reason why it was granted a major non-NATO ally status in 2004. Pakistan provided the US with air bases at Jacobabad and Pasni; it provided an air-corridor to US and coalition forces to conduct air-strikes in Afghanistan; and, it also extended naval facilities to US ships’ landing at Pasni.
Pakistan’s provision of logistic supply routes to the US was also critical as the US forces transported almost 75 percent of its gas, food and other transit of materiel through its territory to US forces in Afghanistan.
When Pakistan blocked the US supply routes after Salala incident in 2011, a 2012 Pentagon report had estimated that the US was paying six times more through the supply routes in lieu of Pakistani Ground Lines of Communication (PGLOC). Moreover, after her apology for their Salala mishap, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested the Pakistani government to continue its No-Transit-Fee policy as this reflected, in Clinton’s words, “tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan”.
Had Pakistan levied a modest tariff for trucks using PGLOC and aircraft using its airspace, America would have owed Pakistan much more than the $33 billion figure flaunted by Trump and Haqqani.
Unfortunately, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the US has been an ungrateful ally.
A version of this article appeared in The Nation, newspaper.
Riaz Khokhar is a Research Assistant at the Center for International Strategic Studies. Mr. Khokhar holds a Masters degree in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. His research interests include Pakistan’s foreign policy affairs, strategic dimensions of world affairs and nexus of security and economic issues among South Asian states. He wrote his Masters thesis on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Posture after Donald Trump’s Coming into Power, completed in May 2017.