Dr. Hassan Askari
The year 2011 can be described as the worst year in the U.S.-Pakistan relations that began with the incident of Raymond Davis in Lahore in the last week of January that caused the death of three Pakistanis: two were killed by Raymond Davis and one person was overrun by a vehicle of American Consulate in Lahore that came for helping Raymond Davis. However, the driver of the support vehicle managed to return to the consulate and the consulate never identified the driver, not to speak to of handing him over to the Pakistani authorities.
The Raymond Davis issue was resolved through compensation as provided in Pakistani legal system. The whole incident created the issue of presence of CIA agents in Pakistan under the garb of private security contractors. The Pakistan government decided not to extend the visas to such people and most of them returned by the end of 2011.
Other problematic incident in 2011 was U.S. military raid in Abbottabad on May 2 to kill Osama bin Laden without any prior information to Pakistan, suspension of U.S. military assistance worth $ 800 million to Pakistan and propaganda against each other in their respective countries. Official and semi-official circles were involved in the propaganda against each other, projecting each other as an enemy.
Pakistan agreed to reopen the supply of goods to U.S./NATO troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan on July 3rd after its suspension for over 7 months. This decision enabled the U.S. and Pakistan to overcome the most serious crisis in the relations since they cultivated the first alliance arrangement in the mid-1950s. However, no crisis was more damaging than the situation that emerged after American troops attacked two border posts in Salala areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on November 26, 2011. Pakistan viewed this attack as a deliberate American action to express their resentment on Pakistan’s policies towards Afghanistan. The U.S. described the Salala incident as a regrettable accident caused by the mistakes committed by both sides.
The U.S. official and non-official circles explored the option of abandoning Pakistan and worked on the alternate supply route to Afghanistan through the states of Central Asia and Russia. The Central Asian states explored for this purpose included Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The distance of this route is almost double of the route through Pakistan and it requires the goodwill of at least two Central Asian states and Russia. The cost of movement of goods through this route is higher. The U.S. has kept this option open as a backup arrangement but it cannot be a substitute to the Pakistani route. It was also viewed in the U.S. that if Pakistan is left alone totally, the major beneficiaries will be the Taliban and other extremist and militant Islamic groups that will become strong. Therefore the proposal for total abandonment of Pakistan was viewed as unworkable.
On the Pakistani side a section of policy makers and the non-official political circles, especially the Islamist and pro-Taliban elements, engaged in massive propaganda of totally severing the relationship with the U.S. They wanted to expand Pakistan’s relations with China as a substitute to Pakistan’s relations with the U.S.
No person in Pakistan cared to explore the viewpoint of China on the confrontation between Pakistan and the U.S. Given China’s expanded economic and diplomatic relations with the U.S., it was not expected to be a party to Pakistan’s emotionally charged propaganda campaign against the U.S.
It was also felt by a large number of people in Pakistan that Pakistan could not cut off its ties with the West because it would isolate Pakistan at the global level and reduce its capacity to influence the Afghanistan situation as Americans withdraw their combat troops. The major beneficiary of Pakistan’s isolationist policy would have been India that could increase its role in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s friendly countries like China and the United Kingdom advised Pakistan to normalize its relations with the United States by reopening the supply route.
The resolution of the supply route issue has generated goodwill that will enable Pakistan and the U.S. to find accommodating solutions to other problems like the drone attacks, two-way movement of militants on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the Haqqani group in North Waziristan, Pakistan’s security concerns in Afghanistan after 2014 and support for Afghan reconciliation and stability. Another set of issues relates to the U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan, including the repayments of what Pakistan has spent for fighting terrorism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border from the Coalition Support Fund.
A Pakistani civil-military delegation will soon visit the U.S. to streamline the above mentioned issues.
Two issues are most problematic. From U.S. perspective, the issue of the Haqqani group partly based in North Waziristan is the most sensitive. The U.S. views this single issue as the main reason for its problems in Afghanistan. This is an exaggerated view of the U.S. failures in Afghanistan. It is one of the reasons but not the only reason for American problems in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s misplaced emotionalism is focused on drone attacks which Pakistani policy makers and Islamists think this to be the main reason for increased terrorism in Pakistan. This is a short sighted view of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan.