Demise of Pak-US relations?
By: Essa Naqvi
'Our relationship with Pakistan is based on mutual respect.' There would hardly be any who has not heard our American 'friends' chanting this mantra in their official and casual public appearances. Here, [Mutual respect] means that the US and Pakistan respect each other.
The 'long-term partnership', as they call it, between the two countries has had several downs and no ups during the last one year. The year 2011 started off with the Raymond Davis Saga. The dust was still in the air when Abbotabad raid occurred. And now the recent attack by our 'friends' on Salala check post along Pak-Afghan border seems to have hammered one of the last few nails into the coffin of this long-term partnership. The situation between the two countries on military, political and diplomatic fronts has never been this hostile.
As a result of the callous attack on Pakistani check posts, Pakistan has taken very significant decisions that may have even complex consequences. Pakistan has halted all NATO shipments from operating on Pakistani territory and ordered the US to vacate Shamsi Airbase that was being used by the US for its military operations and launching drone attacks inside Pakistan. The political and military leadership has announced to revisit its cooperation with the US on various fronts. Also, the Defense Committee of the Cabinet has decided that Pakistan will not participate in the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan being held in Germany. Moreover, Pakistan has launched a diplomatic offensive worldwide to obtain international community’s support against the NATO attacks.
Pakistan has already agreed to the draft of the Bonn conference, even though it is boycotting the key international gathering. However, Islamabad’s decision to stay away from the conference, which has been a year in the planning, is being seen as a setback to international efforts that seek to stabilize the war-torn country before Western forces pull out from Afghanistan by 2014.
It is believed that the security establishment has pushed the political leadership to take these decisions after the inadequate response from the US over the Nato air raid. In her recent appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of Pakistan, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated that Pakistan did not have the moral and legal authority to take a stand against the US after the Abbotabad raid. Presence of Osama Bin Laden inside Pakistan had raised several questions on our credibility in the war against terrorism. She was of the view that the unprovoked attack on Pakistani soldiers was completely unacceptable, violation of the international laws and has no justification. “The attack on Pakistani soldiers has given us the moral and legal grounds to take a stand against the US, and our decision is completely backed by the civil and military leadership,” she said.
Many among the analysts and experts believe that both Islamabad and Rawalpindi have gone so public in expressing their anger that it is now extremely difficult to get back on to a normal track of relationship with the US. Taking a U-turn does not seem to be an option in the near future. Also, this is not a reaction of the Salala Check post event only; the anger that has been accumulating inside Pakistan on the series of incidents has finally found its way out. Many believe that Pakistan was being pushed to wall in a reaction of what they describe as the failure of the US in Afghanistan.
For Pakistan, this decision means having to get by without being bankrolled by the US. No one was ever under the illusion that US aid to Pakistan was being given in a spirit of benevolence. Now that the two countries seem to be going on divergent paths, the aid well may dry up. If we want to be masters of our own destiny, we will have to find the financial means to do so. This implies that we need to pay our fair share of taxes, for if we did, we perhaps wouldn’t need to be so dependent on foreign aid. Should we decide that the US billions are too tempting to forgo, then we will have to accept that we cannot argue against taking military action vis-a-vis the Haqqani network and may even have to stew silently rather than vent publicly when our own soldiers are killed by US forces.
The US seems to be still calculating the exact amount of anger this incident has caused. It is yet to launch diplomatic efforts to pacify the military and civil leadership of Pakistan. It seems more like a psychological warfare between the two countries; who needs the other the more. But this time around, Pakistan seems to be in a bargaining position. Even if the US tries to get the similar cooperation back from Pakistan, it might have to bow to some new ‘rules’ of the game.
The writer is an Islamabad journalist affiliated with Dunya TV. DC is thankful for his valued contribution.