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Major Developments Over The Years

Ikram Ullah Khan


Pakistan and USA have had a bilateral diplomatic relationship since 1947, but formal military relations started in 1954 when both sides negotiated a “mutual defense agreement” for the next ten years[1]. This agreement laid down the basis for tangible military cooperation, as Americans constructed the “Little USA, Badaber bases[2]” in July 1958; this is now known as Peshawar Air station. USA also provided military equipment, training facilities and $508 million in military assistance to Pakistan[3], for its legitimate “self-defense”. During the first decade of their bilateral military relations, Pakistan received notable US assistance for the modernization of its forces.  This military assistance was not only in terms of military ammunition, APCs, radars, communication means, military vehicles but it also included naval warships and aircraft F-104, B-57, F-86, and C-130, to strengthen Pakistan’s defensive and offensive capacity. Pakistan’s Naval and Air Force took part in joint CENTO exercises to gain experience, and a number of Pakistani officers were sent to America for training purposes[4].


Pakistan became party a US-led multilateral treaty called ‘South East Asia Treaty Organization’ (SEATO)[5], also known as the ‘Manila Pact’. This was concluded between Australia, France, UK, Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan and USA, in September 1954. Its members pledged to closely collaborate with each other in the event of armed Soviet aggression towards a SEATO member. Pakistan wished to enhance the scope of this treaty to counter all kinds of aggression[6], including non-communist, but the idea wasn’t entertained at the forum.


In the following year, in September 1955, Pakistan joined another multilateral security agreement known as the ‘Baghdad Pact’, which was later called ‘Central Treaty Organization’ (CENTO). USA supported this arrangement to build its members’ defense and security capabilities against the communist threat/aggression, and it reiterated its non-interference in “intra-region matters”.

U2 Incident

On May 1, 1960, a US spy aircraft U2 was shot down by the Soviets during a surveillance mission.  USA was operating its surveillance mission (U2 flights) from Badaber airbase (Peshawar) to monitor strategic developments in the USSR, the like Ballistic Missile Defense sites and Nuclear Test sites inside USSR’s territory. This incident also brought a certain strain on Pakistan-USA military cooperation, as “Pakistan felt deceived” over this secret American spy operation from a Pakistani airbase.

Indo-China War

USA supported India politically and also offered military and economic assistance against communist China. This USA economic and military assistance was making India a strong nation militarily regardless of the communist threat. The situation was alarming for Pakistan’s national security. Pakistan categorically expressed grave concerns.

Indo-Pak War, 1965

USA shelved Pakistan’s military assistance during this time of difficulty, but it also suspended its military assistance towards India. This aspect would later prove a cooling factor in Pak-USA’s future relations[7].

Indo-Pak War, 1971

Pakistan had joined the American camp in essence to maintain its national integrity against a hostile neighbor – India. Americans however, once again left Pakistan alone and suspended military aid during the Indo-Pak 1971 war, which led to Pakistan’s territorial disintegration. Pakistan learnt the lesson that USA is an erratic ally[8].

Symington Amendment

April 1979, the United States cut off economic assistance to Pakistan, except food assistance, as required under the Symington Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, due to concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear program.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the common interest of Pakistan and the United States in peace and stability in South Asia. In 1981, the United States and Pakistan agreed on a $3.2 billion military and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development needs.

Recognizing national security concerns and accepting Pakistan’s assurances that it did not intend to construct a nuclear weapon, Congress waived restrictions (Symington Amendment) on military assistance to Pakistan. In March 1986, the two countries agreed on a second multi-year (FY 1988-93) $4 billion economic development and security assistance program[9].

Soviet-Afghan War, 1979

Pakistan – USA military relations remained limited and to some extent bitter, due to Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. The Soviet invasion in Afghanistan brought a new era of Pakistan-USA military cooperation; it was the apogee of their military relations.  This Cold War relationship was in many ways a subset of the two countries’ other strategic concerns. Pakistan’s concern was India, while for the Americans, it was the containment of communism. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 however, brought a convergence of Pakistan and US interests and concerns[10].

Pressler Amendment

In 1985, this amendment introduced a legal prerequisite for an American President to issue a waiver to Congress that Pakistan will not crossing nuclear redlines. Soviet disintegration resulted in USA’s disengagement from Pakistan and in 1990, under the Pressler amendment, USA cutoff Pakistan’s military aid once again and refused to deliver 71 F-16 fighters.

Pakistan Nuclear Tests

Pakistan, in response to the Indian nuclear tests, conducted indigenous tests on May 28, 1998. USA imposed sanctions and restricted its military relations with Pakistan, which were already not very significant in nature.

Global War on Terror (GWoT)[11]

In post 9/11 era, USA launched its GWoT inside Afghanistan. In a gyrate of history, Pak-USA military relations and strategic cooperation once again increased at all levels. Pakistan has been able to procure 36 F-16 C/D Block 50/52 fighter aircraft, Mid-Life Update Modification Kits to upgrade Pakistan’s F-16A/B aircraft[12].  But now, after more than a decade, these relations have once again become stringent due to USA’s unilateral military actions inside Pakistan, including Operation Geronimo[13] and NATO’s November 26th attacks[14] on the Pakistani border post.

Revival of bilateral Relations

October 18, 2013 the U.S. decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended when relations between the two countries disintegrated over the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden and deadly U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani soldiers[15] PM. Nawaz made an official visit to Washington from Oct.20 to Oct.23, 2013[16] to further revive and strengthen the bilateral relations.


[5] US Department of the State, Office of the Historian, MILESTONES: 1953-1960, http://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/SEATO
[6] Mussarat Jabeen And Muhammad Saleem Mazhar, Security Game: SEATO AndCENTO As Instrument Of Economic And Military Assistance To Encircle Pakistan, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pesr/PDF-FILES/6%20JABEEN%20Security%20Game%20SEATO%20and%20CENTO.pdf
[9] Foreign Relations- Pakistan & U.S.A. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/pakistan/forel-usa.htm
[10] Dr Maleeha lodhi, The Pakistan – US Relationship, http://www.defencejournal.com/april98/pakistanus.htm
[12] Military, F-16, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/pakistan/f-16.htm
[13] Jake Tapper, Huma Khan, Martha Raddatz And Lauren Effron, Osama Bin Laden Operation Ended With Coded Message ‘Geronimo-E KIA’ http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/osama-bin-laden-operation-code-geronimo/story?id=13507836
[14] Nato attack kills Pakistani troops, says country’s military, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/26/nato-attack-pakistan-kills-eight

By The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies
Nov 18, 2014

The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) has recently proposed a ‘National Policy for Peace and Harmony’, promoting a culture of tolerance and equality and countering terrorism, as a part of its work towards countering and preventing radicalization tendencies in Pakistan. This Policy document was launched at the culmination of a Two-Day International Seminar organized by the Centre on 21st – 22nd August 2013. This document was then floated at various national and international platforms, including various relevant governmental institutions.

Shortly afterwards, the All-Parties Conference (APC) held on September 9th 2013 passed a joint resolution tackling similar issues. The text of the resolution highlights various points raised by the Policy document. In fact, the call for the APC in itself is in line with the recommendations of the proposed policy, as emphasized in the concluding paragraphs of the document:

The National Policy for Peace and Harmony is aimed at resolving the existing radical extremism in Pakistan using peaceful means, integrating and coordinating national efforts on the basis of agreed principles achieved through consensus. This task is enormous and cannot be undertaken alone by any government, political party or group.

 The policy document itself stressed the need for consensus via an APC. Similarly, many other congruencies presented themselves within the texts of the two documents. Some of them have been highlighted below.


APC Text

Guiding Principles:

Guiding principles should include respect for local customs and traditions, values and religious beliefs and the creation of an environment which brings peace and tranquility to the region.




  1. The APCs in February 2013 reiterated that attaining peace through dialogue should be the first priority.
  2. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan are paramount and must be safeguarded at all costs.
  3. And determined to promote “friendship with all and enmity towards none”; Emphasizing the imperative need to review our national security strategy, in the context of an independent foreign policy with focus on peace and reconciliation, and to attach the highest priority to dialogue

Policy Text

Guiding Principles:

Recognising the principles of freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam; Wherein adequate provisions should be made for all the communities to profess and practice their beliefs;
Implement proposed action plan in a co-ordinated and co-operative manner keeping in view local social, religious, political and economic realities of Pakistani society.



  1. Identify issues and initiate dialogue all segments of society representing different views.
  2. Produce National narrative based on agreed values and principles around shared history, culture, sovereignty of the state, peaceful coexistence and rule of law.
  3. Understanding the need for integration in international system for peace and harmony on the basis of universal human values, norms, principles and traditions.


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