06 Nov 2017/Monday

Despite continuing concerns and proof of involvement in anti-US activities in its north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (erstwhile North West Frontier Province) and Afghanistan; the US wooing of Pakistan over the years, remains a source of consternation. Why does a country like the US, that has had no qualms in the past in orchestrating 'Coups' and setting up puppet governments (Central and Latin America) or in invading (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) countries that were seen to be acting against US interests; continue tolerating Pak duplicity?

The US-Pakistan relationship has a deep historical context emanating initially from the US-USSR tussle for global influence. The relationship got irrevocably cemented during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. More recently; the US war against terror in Afghanistan, depends heavily on Pakistan for sustenance. Afghanistan is a landlocked country. The only two countries, via which operations in Afghanistan can be supported by sea-borne logistics, are Pakistan and Iran. The US-Iran relationship has at best been cold, since the Iranian revolution; leaving Pakistan in the enviable position of an indispensable US ally. Pakistan often leverages this position by blocking NATO supplies as and when the pressure from its anti US domestic constituency increases.

However, are we witnessing the beginning of the end?

US actions and statements indicate an ever deepening mistrust of Pakistan. Frustration at Pakistan's inability and in most cases unwillingness to act against entities that are inimical to US interests is on the rise; with calls for positive action becoming ever shriller. In this context, India's consignment of wheat to Afghanistan via jointly developed Iranian port of Chabahar assumes even more significance. Whilst taking forward a strategic relationship with the US, India, in order to secure its energy security requirements and gain access to the resources rich Central Asian countries, is also fostering its association with Iran. Could this balancing act by India open up an alternative supply line of communication for US interests in Afghanistan; is a question that could become interestingly relevant in the near future. Not only would this address Iranian concern of not dealing with the Americans directly, but would also be in line with increasing US request of further involvement in Afghanistan, whilst the same time not committing boots on the ground.

Pak-US In the near future?

Pakistan can expect continued penalties unless its national-security policies change in some important respects, and expect big penalties after big explosions. China’s support to Pakistan from saving it from isolation is the only saving grace for Pakistan (in case of any other major terrorist activity related to Pakistan occurs, China would have a loss of face and may find it difficult to continue support, which at present serves its regional and economic interests).  However, lasting change for the better will come only if Rawalpindi changes course.