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Pak-US Relations in the Light of the Changing Afghan Dilemma

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The creation of Pakistan presented the nascent state with a plethora of problems as every newly born country confronts. Pakistan has made territorial security the top most priority in its foreign policy. This was the reason why Pakistan moved towards alignment in its initial years. This was the impetus for Pakistan's first years of alignment. The nascent state found its economy struggling as it was quite a new economic set-up. Both of these factors, among others, drew Pakistan into the Western orbit. Pakistan has remained in alliances for decades as there are a few years in its total seven- decade long history which is quoted as a non-aligned era, however, the nature of the needs of this newly born country has been so intense that it cannot remain neutral which demands a daunting homework.  When critically analyzing the pros and cons of the alliances to which Pakistan remained a signatory, one may readily conclude that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. As Islamabad has faced a plethora of serious repercussions of the aligned period, it, finally, continues to clarify its stance that it would never become part of any alliance at the cost of its socio-economic and political instability in addition to its security dilemma. Islamabad seeks to be a peace partner in Afghanistan. It wants its efforts for Afghan reconciliation to be appreciated in lieu of being blamed for what is happening now in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and the Alliances: A Critical Analysis.        As previously stated, Pakistan adopted a policy of territorial security, national integrity, and sovereignty protection in response to the threat posed by its eastern neighbor, India, and the rapid growth of its newly established economy shortly after its existence. Pakistan remained part of alliances like SEATO and CENTO, in its early years with a purpose to achieve its prioritized objectives. Later on, Pakistan showed a bend towards the communist bloc in the 70s; but soon retreated to the west following the invasion of Afghanistan by the former USSR in 1979. The 9/11 episode resurfaced the need of Pakistan as an ally to the US in its War on Terror and Islamabad showed a nod and thus it remained a part of the said global move against terrorism.

When considering joining an alliance, a country must weigh the benefits and drawbacks and keep the regional and global geopolitical scenario in mind. Pakistan joined the capitalist bloc with a purpose to ensure security to its territory, sovereignty, and national integrity during its early years; but it totally failed in achieving the designed purpose notwithstanding the fact that it needed it badly especially when it was at war with its eastern neighbor in 1965 and 1971 - wherein the former USSR completely backed India militarily and diplomatically. Pakistan understood the costly nature of the alliance for a while and showed a tilt towards the communist bloc soon after the debacle of East Pakistan: it started diplomatic relations with Russia and strengthened its intimacy with China as well.

The Soviets came and invaded Afghanistan in 1979, which resurfaced the need of Islamabad-being a next-door neighbor to Afghanistan and its cultural and religious connection with it- for Washington. The ideological clash with communism and the mounting need for economic aid pushed Pakistan into the orbit of the capitalist bloc once again. Pakistan contributed well to the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan; but soon after that America repeated the need-based  ties with Islamabad and  withdrew, leaving behind a  Turbulent Afghanistan   ravaged by a devastating civil war followed by the establishment of the Taliban regime in Kabul. It was a  devastating episode as it disturbed the socio-economic, political, and security fabric of Pakistan by virtue of the penetration of Kalashnikov culture, opium smuggling, and ruinous sectarianism.

Islamabad was once again asked to stand by the US and its allies in their global War on Terror. It was left with no option but simply to say yes or no to the offer. Pakistan joined the War on Terror particularly on Afghan theatre compelled by a plethora of reasons: it needed to convert its diplomatic isolation into bilateral and multilateral engagement and avail the opportunity to pose its soft image, boost up its struggling economy avoid the possibility of being rebuked for not supporting the effort against terrorism which might dumb its own cry for the settlement of Kashmir issue and the curtailment of the gross human rights violation in Kashmir at the hands of Indian troops. But, the next two decades pushed Islamabad into troubled water as the alliance caused more than $100bn damage to Pakistan's economy and left more than 70000 people dead in Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan suffered from a long-standing socio-economic, political, and security instability. Pakistan almost lost its international soft image. The US kept blaming Islamabad for supporting the Taliban, even the Afghan government repeating the same mantra instead of appreciating the efforts Pakistan has been playing for Afghan reconciliation, for years since 9/11, and demanded to, "Do more", for its mission in Afghanistan. Contrary to the harsh consequences Pakistan has undergone, it just saw a transitory improvement in its economic growth from 2002 to 2007. But it was mostly economic aid in lieu of the efforts to uplift the down- sizing economy all and all gradually. It observed an amelioration in its diplomatic engagement as the ghost of isolation seemed to be disappearing by leaps and bounds.

 Finally, the experience of going through a handful of severe consequences and the blame game posed by the different aligned periods awakened the country's top policy formulators from dormancy to devise a cost-effective policy and take decisions as per the evolution of the long history of alliances.  Therefore, Islamabad wants to renew its ties with all including Washington on an equal basis. Islamabad keeps unveiling itself as a peace partner as it wants to be mutually cooperated with for bringing peace in Afghanistan and the whole region. Prime Minister Imran Khan's address at the South and Central Asia Conference for Regional connectivity held at Tashkund a few days ago, made the stance of Islamabad much clear that it would be a partner to Peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants its efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan to be recognized and not be blamed for the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan. It calls the regional and global powers to play a positive role in Afghan political settlement even it kept convincing the US to avoid a hasty withdrawal which might pave way for the reinstatement of the 90s civil war episode and ironically the ground realities today are unveiling the prediction coming true. Regional cooperation is the need of the hour. Therefore, Islamabad must be joined for bringing peace to Afghanistan instead of being asked for entering a new alliance whose blow for the socio-economic, political, and security fabric, Islamabad would never tolerate.

While Islamabad trying to clarify its stance regarding the US intentions of staying here in the region- especially its bases in Pakistan- that it would be a partner to peace, America would pressurize it in one way or the other soon after it completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Though the stance of Imran Khan is really incredible while keeping the country's sovereignty in view, Pakistan has to struggle with a handful of issues that needs strong diplomatic support especially that of the major powers. Pakistan might be pressurized over its FATF and Kashmir issues. Pakistan might be punished via delaying or laying the bailouts in abeyance or bailing out with harsh conditions by the IMF, World Bank, and other international organizations. It may further be asked to revamp the protection  of its human rights regime. Finally, though the above paragraph unveils the harsh consequences of the 'absolutely not', the repercussions of the 'absolutely yes' are the severest. Therefore, Pakistan should stand by its stance to be an all-time partner to peace in Afghanistan. Islamabad should keep convincing the US of its compulsions for not going into an alliance anymore at the cost of its own destruction. The USA and Afghanistan must appreciate the efforts Pakistan has done so far for bringing peace to Afghanistan. Islamabad should keep highlighting the importance of a peaceful Afghanistan which is in the best favor of all stakeholders and this is a point of convergence among China, Russia, the US, and Pakistan among others, therefore, they must launch a joint effort to resolve the issue peacefully. The USA must  make an effort Islamabad’s motives and move forward to cooperate with it for a peaceful Afghanistan which will  eliminates security concerns for both countries. Mutual cooperation and coordination among the regional and global powers may facilitate the political settlement in Afghanistan.