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Pakistan-us Military Alliance

Pakistan-us Military Alliance

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Published by: razahamdani on Aug 26, 2009
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05/11/2014

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THE ORIGINS AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PAKISTAN-US MILITARY ALLIANCE
 Hamza Alavi 
Pakistan's disputes and confrontations with India and Afghanistan, especially confrontation withIndia over Kashmir and the dispute over division of the waters of the Indus basin, were no doubtcentral to the making of Pakistan's foreign policy immediately after independence. Theseconflicts have continued in one form or another over the years. It is a common mistake, however to interpret Pakistan's foreign policy too narrowly in the context of its conflicts with its neighborsfor that obscures the extent to which Pakistan has in effect been increasingly drawn into theMiddle East as from the mid-fifties, not so much in terms of the so-called 'Islamic ideology' butrather in terms of the role that Pakistan was made to assume in Western military strategy for theMiddle East. By the early 1950s Pakistan's relationship with the US was set on a new course,culminating in a military alliance.
Objectives of the Military Alliance:
There is a pervasive view that the object and the effect of Pakistan's military alliance with the USwas to strengthen it vis-a-vis India. That is how Indian nationalist scholars and politicians haverepresented that alliance. That is also how Pakistan's rulers themselves have sought to justify it.The rhetoric of US politicians themselves about it was rather different. They suggested that thealliance was to bolster Pakistan as a first line of defense of South Asia against Soviet designs for 'expansionism' in the South Asian region. This was in line with the McCarthyite cold war spiritof the times and legitimated such a military alliance within the US. It seems that the emphasis onthis argument was calculated also to allay Indian fears. If the purpose and function of thePakistan-US military alliance were to strengthen Pakistan vis-a-vis India, a view that is endorsed by critics of the alliance as well as its apologists in Pakistan, ironically it played no part inPakistan's wars with India, when it was defeated twice in 1965 and again in 1971. In fact the USwent to great lengths to reassure India that the alliance held no threats towards India. The USadministration took great care to ensure that the military hardware that it supplied to Pakistan interms of the Alliance, was not to be available to Pakistan for use in its conflicts with India. This paper aims to show that India-centered explanations of the US-Pakistan military alliance obscureits true purpose and significance and the overall dynamics of Pakistan's foreign policy, as a protege of the US.Another aspect of the conventional wisdom on Pakistan's relationship with the US is that it isviewed in unilinear terms, suggesting that from the moment of the creation of he new State of Pakistan it's rulers went begging to the US for economic and military aid and assumed the role of a US satellite and that Pakistan has remained so ever since, in a basically unchangingrelationship. An influential work of this genre is Venkataramani's 'The American Role inPakistan' (1984), which incorporates both these aspects of the conventional wisdom aboutPakistan's relationship with the US in its argument. In Pakistan especially, it has become aninfluential work. This is because, on the face of it, it exposes the willing and unchangingsubservience of successive Pakistan regimes to the US - which suggests by implication that theUS did not have to resort to a great deal of manipulation and pressure to draw Pakistan into itscircle of client states. To assume that would obscure the great dramas on the Pakistani politicalstage that were played out in the mid-fifties in order to secure US objectives. Furthermore,
 
Venkataramani's book carries some degree of credence because much of it is evidently based onexhaustively researched archival material in Washington, which gives it a ring of authority. But,sadly his research is highly selective and partial, grounded in his own particular prejudices. Hehas no clue about the changing contexts of the US military and strategic interests in the regionand, correspondingly, shifts and changes in Pakistan's place in US foreign policy considerationsfrom one period to another.Venkataramani's work is a typical example of Indian nationalist scholarship on this subject. Itreflects an ambivalence between a desire to represent Pakistan's political leadership, from thevery inception of the new State, as subservient and a willing instrument of the US, as its favoredinstruments of its policies in the region. On the one hand, he continually mocks Pakistan's political leaders and rulers, who were desperately in search of military equipment its early years,for debasing themselves before the US, begging fruitlessly from successive unresponsive USadministrations to be granted the facility of purchasing of military equipment which wereregularly and rudely refused. They are shown therefore to be treated shabbily by the US whichchose to ignore them. Then, with some questionable 'nationalist pride', he notes the greater importance that the US attached to India in its regional diplomacy. He writes: "considering Indiaclearly more important in that context (i.e. of US policy of containment of Soviet Union andChina. H.A.) the Administration extended an official invitation to the Indian Prime Minister  Nehru to visit the United States (whereas they) had indicated no interest in inviting the PrimeMinister of Pakistan." (Venkataramani, 1984: 73-74). This is so evidently childish. Why shouldthis be regarded to be such a great 'honor' conferred by a patronizing US on Pandit Nehru andIndia. The US surely was doing no more than pursuing its own designs for the region. Thediscrimination that Venkataramani notices in US treatment of Pakistan and India, respectively,ought to have led him into examining more closely US motives and interests in the region rather than into the petty mockery in which he indulges.That was in 1949. However, quite soon US priorities changed fundamentally, so that even at therisk of antagonizing India, the US drew Pakistan into a military alliance. Why were US prioritiesin the region now radically altered ? Was it merely because of cleverer Pakistani diplomacy ?And what did the alliance offer to the US ? What did it offer to Pakistan ? What new calculationshad changed the equation between India and Pakistan in the US regional policy calculations ?Venkataramani does not stop to ponder over these kinds of questions; nor do most scholars, whowrite about Pakistan's foreign policy in a similar vein. They tend to treat the military alliance between the US and Pakistan, that was forged in the 1950s, as if it was simply an unproblematicextension of an on-going relationship. Some profound changes took place in the strategicmilitary situation in the region in the early 1950s that brought about a crucial shift in the USregional military calculations. It was this that now conferred on Pakistan a new role in USregional military strategy for the Middle East. We cannot begin to understand the reasons for thechange in US attitudes from the earlier coldness and distancing from Pakistan to a desire toestablish a military alliance with it without taking the major changes that took place in theregional balance of power at the time. This certainly did not come about because of initiativestaken by Pakistanis, as we will soon see, although in later Pakistani (and US) propaganda AyubKhan was sometimes represented as the author of the alliance. That bogus claim helped to propagate the notion that the alliance was essentially in Pakistan's interests which, at last, the USwas willing to support. In truth, the US was left to face a new reality with regard to the balance
 
of power in the region and, above all, the threat to Western oil interests. The event that broughtabout this sea change in US strategy was the nationalization of Iranian oil by MuhammadMossadeq in March 1951 that precipitated the crisis of Western power in the Middle East.A new Western strategy for the 'defense of the Middle East', i.e. the defense of Western oilinterests, had to be worked out. Barnds notes that "The idea of a US-Pakistani militaryrelationship first came under serious consideration in Washington in 1951. ... The US Air Forcewas interested in possible sites for air bases; other military strategists considered the manpower the Pakistani Army might furnish for use elsewhere in Asia". A US-Pakistan agreement aboutmilitary assistance was reached by mid-1952. But it was not until the installation of theEisenhower administration in 1953, with the Dulles brothers in charge of the State Departmentand the CIA, respectively, that things really began to move. This reorientation of the US regionalmilitary strategy had little to do with India, except that in making the shift and drawing Pakistaninto a military alliance, the US put at risk its good relations with India and had to try as much as possible to limit that damage.
Historical Perspective:
It might be helpful to look at the background to this in historical perspective. Since World War II,after the decline of British and French global colonial dominance, the US emerged as the most potent power on the world scene. As it eventually evolved, Pakistan's relationship with the US became qualitatively different from its relationships with other major countries of the capitalistworld for Pakistan has been made subject to a form of indirect colonial rule. The US hasexercised a decisive influence, from time to time, on the establishment and survival of regimes inPakistan and on the choice of ministers and allocations of their portfolios. It must be emphasizedthat this does not imply the same kind of control as under direct colonial rule. The weight of US power over Pakistan is pervasive. But this is not without its tensions and contradictions, so thatoften the US has to manipulate forces in Pakistan to achieve its purposes and that not alwayssuccessfully. The most eloquent testimony to Pakistan's relative autonomy, as a post-colonialstate, is the long on-going struggle over Pakistan's nuclear program. Despite pressure andsanctions such as suspension of aid and military supplies, the US does not appear to have beenable to do much about it.The story of the US-Pakistan relationship has been an uneven and complex one. The fact is thatduring the first five years after the Partition, Pakistan was quite insecure in the internationalarena, in its relationships with the US and Britain as well as the Soviet Union, especially in thecontext of its bitter confrontation with India. The actual and prospective economic stake in Indiafor US and British capital was far greater than what the backward and smaller economy of Pakistan could possibly offer. For the US and Britain there was no point in jeopardizing Indiangoodwill because of any entanglement with Pakistan.In Britain a Labor Government was in power and the Labor Party leadership had long standingand close ties with the Indian National Congress and its leaders. The British Labor Movementhad looked upon the Congress as a force for democracy in South Asia whereas it had always been hostile towards the Pakistan Muslim League, as a communal force. Likewise in the USDemocrats were in power. They also had close relationships with leaders of the Indian National

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