THEORETICALLY, foreign policy goal of any country is to have cordial relations with all countries of the world, focusing on commonality of interests and relegating the divergences to the secondary position. Unfortunately, our foreign policy has been susceptible to manipulations because of political and economic instability brought about by flawed policies of successive governments. Instead of putting in efforts for self-reliance, our governments in the past largely depended on the US, and it was due to dependency syndrome that Pakistan had to accept unreasonable demands of the US. Over time, Pak-US relations have suffered serious setbacks due to misperceptions and distrust. After having given tremendous sacrifices in men and treasure, first during Afghan war in 1980s and then after joining the war on terror, Pakistan is accused of selective military operation and taking action against those terrorists who pose threat to Pakistan, and sparing Haqqani network.
Of course, it is for an indulgent international community’s loathing to see through the shenanigans of the Indian establishment and the Kabul regime, who are bent upon denigrating Pakistan. Another reason is that there is lack of competent officials in foreign office and professional diplomats. We have had exceptional diplomats in the past like Sultan Mohammed Khan, Sheharyar Khan, Agha Shahi, Aziz Ahmed, Jamshed Marker and Sahibzada Yaqub Khan. Some of them were blamed for being pro-Americans, but they delivered and advanced Pakistan’s interests. Even during Cold War era, we had good relations with the West as well as with the east European countries. During first PPP government, Pakistan had excellent relations with the Gulf countries. Today, we do have a couple of diplomats with exceptional qualities but they cannot effectively counter propaganda that Pakistan is responsible for fueling insurgency in Afghanistan.
So apathetic and inept was hierarchy in Islamabad that instead of being on the offensive, it went timidly on the defensive. It should have demanded of the invaders as to why had they let Pakistan become victim of the hardened militants to its own national security’s great grief. Indeed, so apathetic was our hierarchy that it mumbled not when CIA ganged up with India’s RAW intelligence agency to incite militancy in our tribal areas and insurgency in Balochistan. India has a strong network of lobbying in US Congress, whereas Pakistan has not judicially invested in this regard, with the result that the world does not accept Pakistan’s narrative. Finally, it is due to tense civil-military relations when politicos often blame that military establishment influences the country’s foreign policy over the years; but it is not unusual. Pentagon and the CIA have always influenced the US foreign policy and sometimes dominated it.
It should be borne in mind that successful relationship between the government and its institutions hinges on the mutual trust and respect for each other. It is true that in democracies, military leadership has to obey the orders of political leadership, but the moot question is whether the military leadership has the right to give their assessment of threats to internal and external security, and give suggestions that not to buckle under foreign pressure, as had happened in case of Kerry-Lugar Act. When military had put its foot down and reacted to the insults heaped on it in the said bill, the politicians and some analysts started accusing military of interfering in government’s domain and going beyond ambit of the Constitution. It is perhaps due to three Martial Laws in the past, that politicians often feel that they do not need any advice from army because by doing so they will give more space to the military, which they do not want to give.
Anyhow, other institutions cannot be blamed for the ineptness of our diplomats and ineffectiveness of diplomacy when the primary responsibility to advance Pakistan’s interests is with the Foreign Office. It has to be mentioned that Pakistan and the US have been allies right from 1950s to early 1990s till the collapse of the Soviet Union. In May 1954, Pakistan had signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the United States; and later in that year it became a member of SEATO. A year later, it joined the Baghdad Pact, and in 1958 when Iraq left this pact after the revolution, it was renamed CENTO comprising Turkey, Iran and Pakistan as its regional members. Early in 1959, Pakistan signed (as did Turkey and Iran) a bilateral Agreement of Cooperation with United States, which was designed further to reinforce defensive purposes of CENTO.
Thus Pakistan was associated with the United States through not one, but four mutual security arrangements. And Pakistan had earned former Soviet Union’s ire after the U-2 spy plane that took off from Buda Ber and was shot down on May 1, 1960. At first, the United States government denied the plane’s purpose and mission, but was forced to admit its role as a covert surveillance aircraft when the Soviet government produced its remains (largely intact) and surviving pilot, Francis Gary Powers. The USSR was extremely angry and had reportedly put a cross on Pakistan with red. If Pakistan had not gone to that extent, Pakistan would not have been disintegrated. In fact, Pakistan has seen many American betrayals, embargoes and sanctions, and every time the US achieved its objective, it ditched Pakistan. During 1965 war, the US stopped its military aid to Pakistan.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.