ISSN 2330-717X

US-Pakistan: A Strategic Permanence – Analysis


There has been an unwarranted satisfaction and even glee among sections of our analysts over recent indications of difficulties in the relations between the US and Pakistani Armed Forces and between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The articulation of US dissatisfaction and concern over Pakistan’s half-hearted action against terrorists operating from North Waziristan, over its continued support to the Jallaudin Haqqani faction of the Afghan Taliban, which was previously operating from North Waziristan, but now operates from Kurram, over the collusion of Pakistani military and intelligence officers with the Afghan Taliban and over the difficulties created by it in allowing Raymong Davis, a member of the technical and administrative staff of the US Consulate-General in Lahore, allegedly involved in the murder of two Pakistanis, to go back to the US have created perceptions of serious difficulties in the US relations with Pakistan.


Speculative stories and negative public comments about Pakistan emanating from US officials and sources during the recent visits of Lt.Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the ISI, and Salman Bashir, the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, to the US and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Pakistan have strengthened these perceptions.

Periodic emergence of difficulties in the relations between the two countries has been there ever since the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988. One saw such spells of difficulties after then President George Bush Sr invoked the Pressler Amendment against Pakistan post-1988 and imposed economic sanctions because of Pakistan’s clandestine acquisition of a military nuclear capability, when then President Bill Clinton placed Pakistan on a list of suspected State-sponsors of international terrorism for six months in 1993 and forced Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, to sack Lt-Gen.Javed Nasir, the then DG of the ISI, and some of his senior colleagues for allegedly not co-operating in the re-purchase of the unused Stinger missiles from the Afghan Mujahideen, when Clinton imposed additional economic sanctions after Gen.Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999 and publicly snubbed him during a visit to Pakistan next year, and when then President George Bush forced Musharraf to remove Lt.Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, then DG of the ISI, from his post and transfer Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, the then Chief of the General Staff, from the GHQ to Lahore because of their suspected links with the Afghan Taliban before the US started its military operations against the Taliban in October,2001, and when Bush repeatedly turned down a Pakistani request for signing a civil nuclear co-operation agreement with it similar to the agreement signed with India.

The US did not allow such difficulties to affect a certain strategic permanence in its relations with Pakistan arising from its strategic location, the long years of military-military and intelligence-intelligence relations between the countries which have served to some extent the national interests of the two countries and the important role which Pakistan could play in maintaining stability in Afghanistan. This permanence has been further strengthened by the US realisation that co-operation from Pakistan is essential for maintaining homeland security.

The enhanced Drone (pilotless plane) strikes against terrorist hide-outs in the two Waziristans since Barack Obama came to office in January 2009, have highlighted two ground realities. Firstly, the US has the capability to achieve significant success in its counter-terrorism operations on its own even without the co-operation of the Pakistani Army and the ISI. Secondly, despite this, it cannot achieve complete success without the effective co-operation of Pakistan.

The US has always followed a policy of carrot and stick for making Pakistan co-operate. While it does not hesitate to use the stick when it considers it necessary in its interests, it takes care to ensure that the use of the stick does not seriously damage the strategic permanence in its relations with Pakistan. The US will maintain this strategic permanence whatever be the temporary tactical difficulties in the relationship.

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B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

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