- Keeping in view the continuity of US drone strikes, can the government of Pakistan meaningfully pursue the path of negotiations with TTP?
- Will the US leave Afghanistan without any power-sharing formula among the contending groups of Afghanistan? What will be its implications for Pakistan?
- In the wake of Edward Snowden’s leak regarding the surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear program, does Pakistan need to worry more about the security of its nuclear program?
- Will there be any meeting of minds between the US and Pakistan on India and Iran?
- Is it a new beginning or the end of a beginning for US-Pakistan relations?
The US-Pakistan relations are characterized by increasing divergence between the two countries rather than the convergence. Both countries disagree on the issue of drone attacks, on the war against terror, over relationship with India and Iran. A potential convergence also exists on the end game in Afghanistan and a strategic cooperation leading to a broad partnership in other spheres but it will take a herculean effort on both sides to overcome their differences.
The issue of drone attacks tops the list of Pakistani agenda as the drone attacks kill the innocent civilians, inflict collateral damage and violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Pakistan is caught in the vicious cycle as the drone attacks create new suicide bombers who seek revenge from the Pakistani public, a supposed US ally in the war against terror.
More importantly, the drone attacks also prevent the newly elected democratic regime of Pakistan to adopt an indigenous counter-terrorism policy towards the militant groups in FATA as endorsed by the All Parties conference. Whenever Pakistan government shows its willingness to engage in the dialogue, the drone attacks take place as has happened recently, or a wave of terrorist attacks is unleashed, putting the policy on hold. It is ironical that the US itself has been pursuing the policy of dialogue with the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan while pressurizing Pakistan to use force in FATA. These contending conceptions of war against terrorism also constitute another divergence between the two countries.
CIA’s presence in Pakistan also becomes significant in the wake of Edward Snowden recent revelations that fifty percent of CIA’s black budget is being spent on the surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The issue of CIAs presence has been a source of friction between the US and Pakistan since the arrest of Raymond Davis in Lahore. It is no secret as Mark Mozzetti in his book “Way of Knife” has revealed that CIA has been involved in massive covert warfare in Pakistan and Pakistan is the “most penetrated” country in the world. Pakistan’s nuclear program is at grave risk in case the thousand s of CIA operatives remain active in the country. The leaked Abbott bad Commission report shows how the ground presence of CIA helped succeed the American raid on Pakistan.
Differences over Pakistan’s relations with India and Iran also constitute another source of friction between the US and Pakistan. The US wants Pakistan to stop backing the militant groups in Kashmir ignoring the indigenous causes of militancy in Kashmir while Pakistan wants US to persuade India to revive the composite dialogue process aimed at resolving all outstanding issues including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also ironical that the US has made India its strategic partner by signing the nuclear deal and not only denies the same cooperation to energy-starved Pakistan but is also pressurizing Pakistan to cancel its gas pipe deal with Iran. Pakistan is threatened with sanctions if it goes ahead with the proposed Iran gas pipeline agreement.
A potential convergence exists about the end-game in Afghanistan where both the US and Pakistan want some kind of political settlement of Afghanistan. It is certainly in the interest of the two countries if the Taliban become the part of some power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan and the civil war does not erupt in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been releasing the key Taliban leadership to facilitate the reconciliation process in Afghanistan and is also making positive overtures to Afghanistan but the stalemate between the US and Taliban continues to persist as the US exit deadline approaches nearer. The indications are that the US will walk away from Afghanistan even without a compromise among the contending groups in Afghanistan, leading to a re-eruption of the civil war and leaving Pakistan in the lurch to deal with the fall-out. As the US-Afghan bilateral security talks hit the snags over the immunity issue for the American soldiers deployed in Afghanistan after 2014, the Obama administration is seriously thinking of zero option, i.e. withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state talked about the revival of strategic cooperation between the two countries during his last visit to Islamabad but it appears to be a non-starter because of prevalence of hawkish groups led by CIA and Pentagon in the Obama administration. If the Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, despite her unusual access to Obama, could not make any difference in the US policy towards Pakistan then it appears unlikely that John Kerry would make any substantial difference. The talk of strategic cooperation appears to be merely rhetorical in order to seek Pakistan’s cooperation for the smooth exit of the US troops from Afghanistan.