Despite a furious response from the Pakistani media, the foreign office and ISPR have responded sensibly to the situation.
Trump is a total racist who thinks that black people from “shithole countries” such as poor Haiti are unworthy of the superior status he bestows upon white people from Norway. But of course he went on to quickly deny he said that at all. Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury confirms that Trump is an infantile person and his administration knows that he is an 11 year old. Psychoanalytic studies suggest that human beings always need an external object to put all the blames on him for their own misdeeds. We create an external enemy of ‘flesh and blood’ that can be fought and can be avenged. In other words, we imagine that our failures are not because of our own misdeeds but because of some other external forces. Such use of imagination helps us to come out of our inner sorrow by blaming some external enemy who is falsely thought to be the reason for our own failures. After all, states are run by human beings not stones. Indeed, states are often in ‘denial’ about accepting reality and the US is no different in that resect.
A recent tweet by Donald Trump blamed Pakistan and argued that ‘The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!’ Mounting tensions have led Pakistan to react by halting intelligence sharing with the US after losing American military aid. Instead, Islamabad will turn to its ‘time tested friend’ and ‘reliable ally’ Beijing. In October 2017, the same Trump was found praising Pakistan for its cooperation in rescuing a North-American family from the Taliban. However, now, Trump has accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to the terrorists that Americans hunt in Afghanistan.The failed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US have cost Washington trillions of dollars. It has made the US to blame others for its own mistakes. Of course, the recent humiliation faced by the US in the UN over Jerusalem cannot be ignored.
It should also be kept in mind that Pakistan was among those countries who opposed the US move in the UN General Assembly to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On a lighter note, at this stage, the US-Pakistan relations can be quoted as boyfriend-girlfriend relations soon after a breakup. The boyfriend reminds her girl of the gifts he gave to her, but in reply, the girlfriend cannot say openly that what she actually gave back in return of those gifts.
History has it that such threats and actions on the part of super powers are not a new trend in south Asian region. Afghanistan has a history of offering no to a limited resistance at first, whenever any global power tried to invade it. But, interestingly, it has the enormous ability to develop a guerrilla resistance against such invaders which always ended in ultimate defeat and humiliated retreat of the outsiders. That is why Afghanistan is called the ‘Graveyard of the Empires’.
The same denial centred approach was adopted by the British after a monstrous defeat in Kabul during first Anglo-Afghan war (1839-42). Only a few British and Punjabi soldiers could survive. The British had ventured this war with the help of Punjab and Sindh (Both are now parts of Pakistan). But without any good reason, the British army attacked and annexed Sindh territory just to ‘gain’ something prestigious, and wash the marks of their Kabul defeat. The British had betrayed their own Sindhi allies in 1843. A similar face-saving policy is being pursued by Trump’s administration.
Nikki Nimrata Haley is the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations and she has also accused Pakistan of playing a double game with the US. She said:
They work with us at times, and they also harbor the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan.
The facts are, somehow different: after 9/11, Pakistan played the role of front line state in global war on terror in Afghanistan after three assurances given to her by the US. First one was subsided at the very start of war. Pakistan was assured by the US that forces of Northern Alliance would not be allowed to take over Kabul as it was against Pakistan’s interests. Pakistan assumes the Northern Alliance to be an Indian proxy in Afghanistan but to its surprise Northern Alliance seized power in Kabul soon after the start of war with backing of the American military. So, from the very start, a deficit of trust had developed and subsequently intensified.
The second assurance was to take more proactive stance by the US to resolve the perennial Kashmir conflict with Pakistan’s adversary number one i.e India. Though Secretary of State, Colin Powel took keen interest in and made several visits to the region for resolving this issue, yet he could not give much favor to Pakistan as India insisted on maintaining status quo on the issue. This also aired a feel of rejection for Pakistan against the US. Thirdly and the most importantly, the India-US civil nuclear deal in 2005 created a sense of humiliation for Pakistan. Pakistan took it as an American attempt towards helping India become a global power.
In 2011, the trust deficit between Pakistan and the US increased to maximum level after the killing of Usama bin Laden in Pakistan in an operation conducted by the US Navy seals, without taking Pakistanis into confidence. The Obama administration was failed in getting things better in Afghanistan and was urging Pakistan Army to start operation against ‘Haqqanis’ in North Waziristan area of Pakistan. The US was unable to build a consensus in Afghanistan over a national government. Also, incorporation of Northern Alliance warlords who were engaged in settling their personal score into government worsened the situation.
It is also evident that the NATO forces from different western countries were not taken into confidence by the US regarding operations in Afghanistan. At that time, Pakistan was more concerned in curbing ‘Pakistani Taliban’ who had become a threat to state’s existence. This strained the relations between the US and Pakistan. Moreover, despite repeated requests and provisions of dossiers, the US Administration has always refused to help Pakistan against Baluch insurgents, and keeping India and Afghanistan away from supporting them. The drone attacks without informing was another thorn in the side of Pakistan. To the US, Pakistan’s priorities were never on preference list.
It would not be out of context here to mention that Pakistan’s concerns for Indian involvement in Afghanistan are not baseless or irrational. Pakistan was caught in the two-tier front since her inception. The involvement of Pakistan into Afghanistan was not due to Russian invasion but it had started much before in 1974 against a counter to Afghan policies of aiding Baluch insurgents in Pakistan. Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan was shaped in order to handle the issue of “Pashtunistan” on its western borders. The Indian Union Home Minister Chakravarti Rajagopalachari’s remarks are quoted here for reference in which he said to a visiting Afghan premier in 1951:
It is no secret, that our foreign policy holds Indo-Afghan friendship to be essential; and when we two are bound in friendship we will squeeze anyone (Pakistan) in between in the same embrace of affection—a pincer movement for peace, so to speak. The mutual antipathy to Pakistan had brought India and Afghanistan close to each other as natural allies.
The Pakistan-US relations have always seen ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ phases due to different prisms through which both states see each other. The US has always treated Pakistan as a strategic partner. But Pakistan went into early alliances with the US in hope of getting its true support for the resolve of issues with India. There is a strong perception in Pakistani people that the Americans use Pakistan in the time of need and then abandons them. Pakistan’s own security concerns are directly derived from the Indian factor and growing partnership between India and America are making the Americans less credible in the eyes of Pakistan’s policy makers. American insistence on Indian involvement in Afghanistan’s end game has exacerbated the situation for years.
In 2016, Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed by an American drone strike inside Pakistan, who had been convinced by Pakistan to start a dialogue. Also, it is to be understood that Pakistan establishment is not strong enough to operate against all the groups at a time. They have to use a few against others. This is part of strategy as per Pakistan’s point of view. America has always tried to make a sheep (Pakistan) pull the cart who is already afraid of a fox in the neighbour (India). However, America has fed excessive grass to this goat but never made efforts to keep the fox away.
Despite a furious response from the Pakistani media, the foreign office and ISPR have responded sensibly to the situation. DG ISPR General Ghafoor has said on a news channel that the US should wait for the positive results because Pakistan has already done what is ‘wanted’ by the US. He also communicated Pakistan’s grievances against US policy of elevating the Indian status in Afghan end game. There is no denying the fact that Pakistan can face grave consequences from the US like economic sanctions, drone-attacks, covert operations inside Pakistan’s territory etc. But this is also an admitted fact that the US does not enjoy as much international support that it had enjoyed after 9/11. It would be irrational for the US to open new front against Pakistan and leave Afghanistan in jeopardy. It will introduce more volatility into the region at a time when the United States faces other pressing global priorities.
It is also worth mentioning that Pakistan may tolerate the US interventions inside its territory but If the Americans tried to harm Pakistan through India, it can cause severe crisis in the region. An elevated position of India by US will not only intimidate Pakistan but also China and Russia. Anti-American sentiments and internal turmoil won’t enable Iran to support India much. Unlike Pakistan, India is rational enough not to play all its cards in Afghanistan just to please America. India’s stance in future is crucial for the future of south Asia. A single misadventure by India can lead the region to a nuclear war because Pakistani policy makers can tolerate threats by the US threats but not by the Indians.
This post has been contributed by Jawad Kadir, Ph.D Student in International Relations, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University. Any views are his own. Links and editing by PIIA.