US Defence Bill

If one closely monitors Pakistan’s relationship with the US, it has often been in transition stage, i.e. shifting from the most-allied status to negligence and even to hostility sometimes. The US termed Pakistan double-dealing and duplicitous ally and Pakistan termed the US dealings as unequal and distressing. History of mutual relationship between the two may be termed as senior-junior, need-based, and on-again—off-again. In short, the US and Pakistan often move towards divergent paths. At present, though both states are not facing a dramatic bilateral rupture of the sort that threatened throughout much of 2011 and 2012, or economic sanctions that Washington imposed throughout 1990s, but the post-9/11 chapter of the relationship is slowly ending.

The next chapter of the US-Pakistan relationship has already started. It is marked mainly by lower expectations on both sides. Collaboration between the US and Pakistan on war against terrorism was the most recent push in bilateral relationship and provided considerable impetus for further cooperation, but it failed to bridge the trust gap. Even, former President Obama recognized the mistrust that remains between the two countries due to a mottled historical relationship. Overall, the mutual relationship remained victim of a sort that the “great expectations” turned into “great frustrations.”

The US foreign policy in South Asia has been vague under President Trump. But, the India-centric approach by the US in the South Asian region in the past two and a half decades did disrupt an already fragile security dynamics. Again, the recent US defence bill favours cooperation with India and proposes conditions on Pakistan. The a US$ 621.5 billion defence policy bill, moved by Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera, was adopted by a voice vote by the House as part of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018, beginning October 1 this year. It specifies that of the total amount of reimbursement and support, i.e. US$ 400 million authorised for Pakistan would not be eligible for a national security waiver unless Secretary of Defence gives nod.

This bill still needs approval from the US Senate for the final signature of President Trump. Ami Bera defended the Indo-US defence cooperation while saying that “the US is the world’s oldest democracy and India is the world’s largest democracy. It is vitally important to develop a strategy that advances defence cooperation between our two nations.” This argument is so naïve as what is the connection between democracy and cooperation in deadly weapons. The Indians have been using their democracy card very well in the US but the Americans fail to understand the gross human rights violations of minorities inside India. The US silence is the most disturbing for the developing world as this silence is not from the ordinary country but from the sole super power.

The US House has made it conditional to Islamabad showing “satisfactory progress” in the fight against terrorism. What type of satisfactory progress? Has Pakistan not done enough for the world peace? Pakistan stands the most affected country in terms of man and material after 9/11. Pakistan has suffered more than US$ 120 billion economic loss coupled with more than 80,000 human causalities since 9/11. The bill is an extension of the old US demand from Pakistan to “do more” without recognizing the above-mentioned sacrifices of Pakistan. Pakistan has done beyond it capacity and it is still continuing to suffer. Pakistan has launched many operations, notably Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad throughout the country. Pakistan has been in a state of war since 9/11. What else the US wants Pakistan to do.

The other condition is that the defence secretary needs to certify that Pakistan is actively coordinating with the government of Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants. This condition is again misleading and puts facts aside. Pakistan has always offered Afghanistan many options, i.e. fencing the border etc to stop cross border infiltration of outlaws. But, Pakistan did not get any tangible response from the other side of the border. The ungoverned areas of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan have been source of infiltration and terrorist activities inside Pakistan. Terrorist attack on the Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in February 2017, killing around 90 people and injuring more than 250, is just one example of cross border terrorism from Afghanistan out of many.

It seems India has become a dominant determinant in the US foreign policy when it comes to South Asia. The US tends to buy Indian narrative about South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular. This makes the US approach dependent on one country, which is unfit for the sole super power. India has been making efforts to make the US realize that its rise is in the interest of America. Likewise, the US has been expecting India to play a role of “swing state” in South and East Asia. Pakistan is the part of solution not the problem, which needs to be understood by the new US administration.

Article originally published in Pakistan Observer, July 28, 2017.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.

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About the Author

Khalid Hussain Chandio has been working as Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). Previously, he had joined IPRI as Assistant Research Officer (ARO) in October 2007. He was then promoted as Research Officer (RO) in February 2013. Before joining IPRI, he worked in different capacities i.e., Media Analyst and Junior Analyst in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Pakistan, which gave him greater insight in the research and analysis fields. His areas of research include the United States of America (USA) [Its Foreign and Defence Policy, Pak-US Relations, Role of Lobbies in the USA, and Domestic Politics in the USA]. Khalid regularly contributes articles on current strategic issues in English Dailies of Pakistan. He holds M.Phil in International Relations (IR) from School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad, Pakistan and M.Sc in Defence and Strategic Studies (DSS) from the same university.

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