Connect with us


The Crisis in Pakistan-United States Relations: Analysis of Recent Events



Supply Trucks,


On November 26, 2012 in a brazen incident NATO attacked the Salala post on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Pakistanis were shocked at the incident since it was unprovoked. The Government of Pakistan reacted by immediately closing the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) for NATO supplies into Afghanistan from the Karachi port. Also, it demanded an apology and an investigation from the United States for the incident. Later on, an investigation was conducted by NATO which suggested that mistakes had been committed on both sides. Pakistan firmly rejected the NATO version and insisted that it was at fault in the Salala incident. It characterized the incident as “unprovoked, deliberate and planned (Dawn, July 5, 2012). The United States seemed to be forthcoming at the apology demand but later backed down because of another terrorist incident in Kabul blamed on the Haqqani network based inside North Waziristan inside Pakistan. Resultantly, relations between the United States and Pakistan were seveere3ly strained reaching to the lowest ebb in history. Finally, some seven months after the Salala incident Hillary Clinton the United States said sorry and on July 3, 2012 Pakistan and the United States reached an agreement to reopen the closed GLOCs. However, the United States still characterized the Salala incident as being the result of a mutual mistake and did not touch upon the key Pakistani demand of cessation of drone attacks inside North Waziristan, inside Pakistan (Dawn, July 5, 2012). More importantly, Pakistan was assured by the United States that there would not be any repetition of such an incident. Pakistan’s reaction in closing GLOCs cost the United States at least $700 million, as it rerouted supplies across more expensive northern routes. It was reported that he final bill may have been significantly greater (Dawn, July 7, 2012). 
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said on July 5, 2012 that the decision to open the GLOCs was taken in the national interest and in light of parliamentary recommendations. The agreement was announce as a “turning point” by Hina Rabbani Khar Foreign Minister of Pakistan who further stated that “the progress achieved so far would now help the two countries to engage seriously on other issues (Dawn, July 5, 2012). Raja Pervaiz, Prime Minister of Pakistan said The News International Friday, July 06, 2012):
As the draw down of NATO and Isaf forces got underway, Pakistan wanted to facilitate the process in the interest of regional peace and stability, because peace and stability in Afghanistan was closely linked to peace and stability in Pakistan…Pakistan was a partner of the international community and playing a leading role against terrorism as a frontline state….that the prolonged deadlock over the issue of supplies could have hurt the country’s relations with the NATO countries, including friendly and brotherly Muslim states such as Turkey, Qatar and UAE… that it was for the first time in the country’s history that a bipartisan parliamentary consensus was evolved on the broad contours of foreign policy….Pakistan made it clear that its red-lines should be respected and in the same context the new terms of engagement as approved by Parliament were visibly heeded to by the US and Nato countries. 
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, PML (Q) leader and a coalition partner of the ruling PPP also supported the government’s decision to open NATO supplies and said (The News International, July 06, 2012): 
No country could afford international diplomatic isolation…that the presence of US, NATO and ISAF forces in Afghanistan represented 50 countries under the UN mandate…. the diplomatic impasse over the issue could have created problems for Pakistan at the UN. ..Foreign policy decisions needed to be taken in a dispassionate and cool-headed manner as the stakes were too high to be left at the mercy of emotions and irrational behaviour.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held a three-way meeting with the Khar Pakistani Foreign Minister and Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul in Tokyo, Japan on July 8, 2012. Clinton said her discussions with Khar covered “stalled Afghan reconciliation efforts”. They spoke as well about “enhancing US-Pakistani economic ties to make it a relationship defined more by trade than aid”. She “acknowledged the lingering difficulties hindering US-Pakistani cooperation, without getting into details”. She expressed hope on July 8, 2012 that Pakistan’s recent reopening of the GLOCs might lead to a “broader rapprochement in US-Pakistani relations after a difficult period for the reluctant allies” (Source: Dawn). 
Clinton further said, (Dawn)
We are both encouraged that we’ve been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so we can focus on the many challenges ahead of us….We want to use the positive momentum generated by our recent agreement to take tangible steps on our many shared, core interests. The most important of these, was fighting the militant groups who’ve used Pakistan as a rear base to attack American troops and jeopardise the future of Afghanistan….focused on the necessity of defeating the terror networks that threat the stability of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the interests of the United States… a challenging but essential relationship….I have no reason to believe that it will not continue to raise hard questions for us both…But it is something that is in the interests of the United States as well as the interests of Pakistan.

The Recent Politics of the Pakistani Opposition

As expected, the Opposition parties, nationalist groups, and Islamic radicals in Pakistan were greatly angered at the development of the GLOCs reopening. The Zardari Government wasn’t caught by surprise at the reaction and did anticipate such a reaction. The Difa-e Pakistan Council (DPC) announced protest march from Lahore to Islamabad on July 8, 2012. It was commonly known that the DPC was supported by the ISI. The DPC was headed by Maulana Samiul Haq of the JUI. The DPC was composed of a group of Islamist parties and other right-wing groups, including but not limited to, JUI, Jamaat-i Islami, the banned Jamaatud Dawa headed by Hafiz Muhammad Saied, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Hameed Gul, Hafiz Rehman Makki (Dawn, July 5, 2012). Maulana Samiul Haq said that the Zardari Government had “defied the parliament which had clearly decided not to resume the supply as long as drone attacks were not stopped (Dawn, July 5, 2012). The main Opposition party the PML (N) and the Pakistan Tehrik-i Insaaf (PTI) also condemned the restoration of the GLOCs calling it a “violation of the parliament’s resolutions” and also announced protest marches. Undoubtedly, the popular outcry against the United States was immense. Give, the high anti-Americanism in Pakistan, these protest marches would attract the people of Pakistan. The Opposition was bent upon simply riding the wave of the popular disgust against the United States. Mistaken politics at its best.
Was this really a breakthrough in United States-Pakistan relations as depicted by the Government of Pakistan and its coalition partners? Was the stalemate in Pakistan-United States relations been really broken and a new beginning made? Clearly the Government of Pakistan was in a damage control exercise. What actually happened was aptly captured by the Wall Street Journal which commented: (The News, July 8, 2012.)

“Pakistan had backed down as its anti-Americanism had exacted a diplomatic price…Pakistan is spinning the deal with the US to reopen NATO supply routes to Afghanistan as a triumph of its diplomacy. But it was Islamabad that climbed down from its extortionate demands and accepted the status quo ante. That’s a big change from previous situations when it was able to extort more aid out of Washington…The deal ended a seven month-long diplomatic standoff that began with a Nato incident on the Af-Pak border in November and led to the closing of land routes through Pakistan. Islamabad sought a full apology from the US for provoking the firefight in which 24 Pakistani troops died. But Washington says the Pakistanis opened fire first in the border clash, and even now it offers a carefully worded statement that it’s ‘sorry for the losses… Pakistan’s demands were partly bluster from the military, which has been looking to salve its pride since the Osama bin Laden raid. But the Obama Administration wasn’t exactly eager to make nice with a country Americans increasingly believe is acting in bad faith. The generals also noticed that Defence Secretary Leon Panetta last month reached out to their traditional rivals in New Delhi, and their usual paranoia probably kicked in. It’s useful to remind Pakistan it’s not indispensable. The other reason Islamabad adopted such a stance and stuck to it for so long is more worrying. The ruling party — beleaguered at home — had whipped up so much jingoism that it feared a political backlash if it backed down easily. Opposition politicians, mostly from religious parties, are now threatening protests against the government, so Islamabad could yet try to back out of the deal. Pakistan’s leaders find it convenient to open the Pandora’s Box of radical Islam and anti-Americanism for short-term gains. It’s Pakistan itself that has paid the highest price for that ugly bargain.”

No matter the politics and the spin of the so-called breakthrough in Pakistan-United States relations, the reopening of the GLOCs can be seen as an overall a positive development for both the United States and Pakistan. Contrary to the impression given by the Government of Pakistan and the Opposition political parties, the drone attacks were happening with the permission of both the Zardari Government and the Pakistan Army. The only thing was that the Pakistanis were not willing to admit it because of the fear of a political backlash. Increasingly, Pakistanis had turned against the United States and the politicians as well as the Army brass knew full well that saying so would be a political risk for them. In some ways the drone strikes was a fake issue. There was a convergence of national interests, as seen by the Pakistan military and Government of Pakistan, on allowing these drone strikes inside Pakistan. Therefore, the lingering issue of drone strikes in North Waziristan can be resolved in some manner like sharing responsibility in some ways. 
The real sticking point in Pak-US relations and the main divergence of national interests wasn’t the war on terror inside Pakistan but the one in neighbouring Afghanistan. This problem is real and remains. The real issue of conflict is the playing out of the so-called endgame in Afghanistan after the United States and NATO /ISAF troops depart by the end of 2014. 
Obviously, the Government of Pakistan would like to see the Taliban in power in Afghanistan. At least, this seems to be the present thinking in the power corridors of Pakistan today. Whether this actually happens or not is dependent on a number of factors though. Anyway a lot depends on how this endgame is played out between the US and Pakistan. It remains to be seen whether the United States and Pakistan join hands on Afghanistan or not. . In the interest of regional peace it can be argued that both countries must join hands to earnestly plan for a viable endgame in Afghanistan. Nothing can be more significant than a doable Afghan endgame strategy for both the United States and Pakistan. Is Pakistan ready for the challenge? Unfortunately, the Zardari Government is too preoccupied with the internal political and economic crisis to do much in this foreign policy area. Plus, it simply doesn’t have the capacity to take any meaningful action. Given the control of the army over foreign and security policy, not much can be expected of the Zardari Government. Also, the Foreign Office doesn’t have a viable strategy in place to deal with the situation. It must be emphasised that peace in Afghanistan remains a formidable challenge. 

Post-2014 Afghanistan?

The departure of US & allied troops from Afghanistan by end 2014 doesn’t suggest that there will necessarily be peace in the country. There is a real danger of a civil war erupting in Afghanistan after the departure of these troops. The politics of Afghanistan is complex. Country is weak and fragmented on ethnic lines. The Afghan Taliban are somewhat supported by Pakistan, while the Northern Alliance is supported by the US & India. The Hazaras are supposedly supported by Iran. In the eventuality of the departure of United States and ISAF/NATO troops, the Taliban will make a bid for power in Afghanistan. The Taliban can be expected to be resisted in taking over Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek areas, however. Today, the Taliban control the Southern portion of Afghanistan only. Meanwhile, the United States has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan to assist it in building the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to strength of 230,000 at a cost of $4 billion. Given the reality of Afghanistan, the chances of a half decent national army are very slim. The present Karzai Government in Afghanistan is not only very corrupt but also weak and ineffective. Therefore, Karzai isn’t expected to last long after most Nato-led foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014. Then the Karzai Government will assume responsibility for most of its own security. 
The past performance of the Karzai Government has been dismal. In total Afghanistan has received nearly $60 billion in civilian aid since 2002. The World Bank says foreign aid makes up nearly the equivalent of the country’s gross domestic product On July 8, 2012 international donors pledged $16 billion in a major donors’ conference held in Tokyo, attended by about 70 countries and organisations. The conference aimed at setting aid levels for the crucial period through and beyond 2014, The US portion is expected to be in the decade-long annual range of $1 billion to this year’s $2.3 billion. The total amount of international civilian support represents a slight decline from the current annual level of around $5 billion. Japan, the second-largest donor, says it will provide up to $3 billion through 2016, and Germany has announced it will keep its contribution to rebuilding and development at its current level of $536 million a year, at least until 2016. The $4 billion in annual civilian aid comes on top of $4.1 billion in yearly assistance pledged last May at a Nato conference in Chicago to fund the Afghan National Security Forces from 2015 to 2017.But the flow of aid is expected to sharply diminish after international troops withdraw, despite the ongoing threat the country faces from the Taliban and other militants.
Along with security issues, donors had become wary of widespread corruption and poor project governance. The aid was intended nevertheless to provide a stabilizing factor as Afghanistan transitions to greater independence from international involvement. But it will come with conditions. The pledges were expected to establish a road map of accountability to ensure that Afghanistan does more to improve governance and finance management, and to safeguard the democratic process, rule of law and human rights, especially those of women. Meanwhile, Karzai had vowed to “fight corruption with strong resolve.” But he still faces international weariness with the war and frustration over his failure to crack down on corruption. Clinton had acknowledged that corruption was a “major problem.” The donors planned to set up review and monitoring measures to assure the aid is used for development and not wasted by corruption or mismanagement, which has been a major hurdle in putting aid projects into practice (Dawn, July 8, 2012).

The Next Steps

What is happening in Afghanistan must be carefully analysed from the perspective of different stakeholders, especially Pakistan. The Pakistan military is worried that India is making inroads in Afghanistan and desires a role in the future of the country. More importantly, it believed that the United States was encouraging India in this development. The military leadership was apprehensive of any Indian role in Afghanistan and also firmly believed that these developments were happening at the cost of Pakistan. The reality is different, however.

What should Pakistan and United States do now in Afghanistan?

  1. They should join hands to broker a power sharing arrangement in Afghanistan. Different power groups in the country, especially the Taliban and Northern Alliance, are brought on the negotiating table for this exercise. 
  2. Intense and coordinated diplomatic activity shall be required for any meaningful intra-Afghan dialogue. These negotiations will surely be tedious but are needed nevertheless. 
  3. Pakistan must facilitate a Taliban-United States deal to the extent possible. The United States work with Pakistan on this one. 
  4. Both hold a series of meetings in Islamabad to chalk out the contours of a viable endgame in Afghanistan.
  5. Later, invite other regional players like India, Russia, China, CARs and Iran to contribute their share in 
    finalising the endgame.

    There are a number of things for Pakistan to do immediately:

    1. Convince the US that Pakistan knows Afghanistan like no other and therefore must be trusted to play a key role in the endgame. A number of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are suggested:

    a) Renounce the old discredited policy of ‘Strategic Depth’ and ‘a friendly Western border’ propounded by the Pak Army. Most importantly, the Zardari Government must wrest control of the Afghanistan policy from the hands of the military. It must immediately announce a stopping of support for the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-i-Taiba. Pakistan must engage the United States which is counting on it to help convince the Taliban and other groups fighting the Afghan government to halt violence and enter into a political dialogue.

b) Stop the Defa-e Pakistan Council from going overboard in protesting against the United States.
c) Joint efforts with the United States to tackle the Islamic extremist problem.

The United States, on its part, must also take immediate action in a number of areas:

  1. Stop covert CIA activity in Pakistan 
  2. Reach out to the Pakistani Civil Society in a new effort at ‘winning hearts and minds’. 
  3. Acknowledge that some past actions are responsible for a great deal of animosity among the Muslims. 
  4. Support the Palestinian cause and stop Israeli military subjugation and occupation of Palestine. 
  5. Support a final solution of the lingering Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan 
  6. Openly support Pakistan in taking a final and decisive military campaign against terrorist’s hideouts in North Waziristan. Remember the Pakistan Army is exhausted and badly stretched to do this alone. 
  7. Stop threatening Iran over the nuclear issue. Give diplomacy a fuller chance. 
  8. Release the stuck up CSF money to Pakistan.
Before the reopening of the GLOCs Pakistan-United States relations were at its lowest ebb but there are signs that they can still be repaired. Both sides must resolve their differences with a new determination. The US and Pakistan have a convergence of national interests in seeking a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. Therefore, both can, and should, work as real partners rather than rivals. Pakistan and United States also have much in common at the societal and cultural level also. There is no reason for the deep mistrust to prolong any longer. Undoubtedly, the United States has enemies inside Pakistan. Some Islamic radicals and other nationalists are convinced that the United States is their perpetual enemy. They believe that the United States is an enemy of Islam. Bad experiences and history has sharpened these perceptions. Circumstances change and so can perceptions. The people of Pakistan dislike the state policies of the United States but not just hate America as such. Media reports exaggerate these negative perceptions on both sides. The point is that these misperceptions cannot and should not come in the way of sensible policy making. Both need each other to build lasting peace in the region. Dreams of a prosperous, peaceful and secure Pakistan are the aspiration of all Pakistanis and Afghans. However, dreams of peace and prosperity aren’t just made without sustained effort at achieving them. Proper planning and wise policy making is required. Prudence is the need of the hour and not just emotions. It is pertinent to add that Pakistan will lose more if the Afghanistan endgame falters. Most importantly, Pakistan must act immediately. The US-Pakistan Relations and the Issue of Afghanistan 
Pakistan-US relations have been seriously strained because of recent events. This has happened primarily because of the logjam on the Afghanistan issue. Lack of vision and straight thinking in both American and Pakistan’s leadership circles is mainly responsible for the sharp deterioration in these relations. Continuing American drone strikes inside Waziristan in Pakistan is causing a swell of anti-American feelings in the country. The Obama administration is not going to stop them any time soon. Meanwhile, the level of mutual distrust has created a crisis situation now. The shortcomings Zardari government in power in Pakistan is simply incompetent and preoccupied with the domestic political mess to take any bold decisions on the Afghanistan issue. Unfortunately, the military establishment is still calling the shots on matters of national security and foreign policy. This is largely happening by default because the civilian government is too weak to take charge. The Zardari Government has failed to give any reasonable direction on foreign policy or national security. The US troops will pull out in 2014 and the future power arrangements in Kabul are the main bone of contention between Pakistan and the US. Meanwhile, the negotiations between the US and Taliban in Qatar have stalled. Meanwhile, the US is losing patience with Pakistan as it is still backing the Afghan Taliban who are fighting the ISAF-NATO military forces in Afghanistan from safe havens established inside the country. This is an open secret now. Incredibly, the presence of these terrorist safe havens inside the country is officially denied by Pakistan. Why is Pakistan hedging its bets on the Afghan Taliban? This is happening because of Pakistan’s legacy in Afghanistan, especially during the Soviet occupation in 1979 and eventual ouster in1989. Pakistan and the US had a convergence of interests then and both supported the Mujahedeen against the Soviet occupation force. It helped create the Taliban back in the mid-1990s and these connections supposedly matter, given the presence of a large Pakhtun population in the KPK province on the Pakistan-Afghan border area inside Pakistan. Plus, the Pakistan military believed in the infamous doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ inside Afghanistan as a national interest priority. Supposedly this was part of a larger strategic plan in its combat posture with arch enemy India. However, things have changed and the old doctrine is no more valid. India-Pakistan relations have improved somewhat and Pakistan is less threatened then before. Pakistan is a nuclear power and has formidable military muscle to deter India from any adventure against it. Reportedly, Pakistan has the fastest development in its nuclear establishment in the world. Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s military might is awesome and India would never attack Pakistan for the fear of unleashing a nuclear Armageddon in South Asia. Pakistan does not have to fear India now. In other words, Pakistan has attained the stapes where it is reasonably protected against India and other enemies as well. Therefore, Pakistan has the luxury of shifting focus to human security and development areas. The economy of Pakistan faces a formidable challenge and requires immediate attention of its rulers. Pakistan has achieved a lot in the military area and now must focus on the welfare of its people. 
Massive corruption, endemic bad governance, mismanagement and misperceived priorities have wrecked havoc in the country. The issue of human security, as opposed to military security, must now be the strategic priority of the government of Pakistan. This requires a paradigm shift as the military establishment is still obsessed with military security issues. 
Will the military establishment of Pakistan realize that Pakistan has weakened from within because of the governance crises engulfing it today? Is the military establishment ready to cut its share of the budget pie and divest scarce resources to solve the very serious energy crisis in the country? More importantly, will the Pakistan military establishment give up its policy of backing the Taliban in Afghanistan? Unfortunately, the answer to all three questions remains in the negative. The problem with Pakistan military establishment is that it fails to see the people’s aspirations as legitimate. Given its great power in still calling the shots in Pakistan, the military has lost vision of the true national interest of the country. The people of Pakistan just want stability, peace and economic opportunities and do not desire anything else. They want peace in the region which includes both Afghanistan and India. The Government of Pakistan must facilitate the US pullout in 2014 by immediately reopening the NATO supply routes closed since November last after the Salala incident. Insisting on an apology by the US isn’t required now. There is still a basis for repairing the US-Pakistan relationship. 
There is a convergence of national interest between Pakistan and the US on the issue of peace and stability in Afghanistan after the pullout. The Government of Pakistan must stop from playing favorites inside Afghanistan. It must reach out to the Northern Alliance groups and other non-Pashtun groups in a bid for reconciliation. The role of India in Afghanistan isn’t necessarily a big issue for Pakistan. Afghanistan is a member of SAARC and India has legitimate interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan must negotiate an end of Indian interference in Baluchistan by severing its own links with the Jihadist entities inside India. A quid pro quo can be worked out with some tense diplomacy and patience. It is in Pakistan’s supreme national interest to have peace and stability in Afghanistan by working out a power arrangement that includes the Taliban. Pakistan must have a proactive foreign policy and should take the imitative to arrange negotiations for a transfer of power after the pullout in 2014. Arrangements can be made to include the US, India, China and Iran in this diplomatic initiative. All concerned stakeholders can and should meet to settle a power-sharing arrangement. In Lebanon different ethnic groups have devised a formula for sharing power and this formula can be applied in case of Afghanistan as well. General elections will have to wait for this formula arrangement. While a Pakhtun can become a President of Afghanistan, other important positions must go to non-Pakhtuns. A sort of balance of power arrangement inside Afghanistan can be worked out and then general elections be held. The point is that the American model of democracy may not work in Afghanistan and a new democracy of ethnic groups power-sharing may be more applicable in tribal Afghanistan. There isn’t much time left as these negotiations will be prolonged and tedious at best, and unworkable at worst. In the interest of peaceful and stable Afghanistan it is certainly worth a try. Only Pakistan can host this negotiations arrangement. No other country has more at state in the post-western Afghanistan than neighbour Pakistan. Unfortunately, the leadership of Pakistan is too inept and ineffective to take this needed diplomatic imitative. The region will surely loose if timely action isn’t taken now to secure Afghanistan after the US & NATO troops have left in 2014. Eventually, a new peacekeeping force will have to replace the Western troops. It is best that an OIC peacekeeping force is placed to secure Afghanistan for some years. Pakistan can be instrumental in setting up this Muslim peacekeeping force for eventual deployment in Afghanistan. Firstly, Pakistan must get its own house in order and resolve its serious governance issues. A future of peace, prosperity and stability, in Afghanistan beckons both the United States and Pakistan only if they build a true partnership for the purpose. Nothing else will do. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Pakistan doesn’t have much time to change direction. 

Dr. Sohail Mahmood is the Chairman of Department of Politics & International Relations, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan

Please share and join the discussion on facebook by clicking the “Like” below.
Visit The World Reporter for discussion on this post. Or you may like to know what others are saying on this topic.

Russian by roots, global citizen by choice. In love with India and Indian culture, love to report everything from politics to military news. Against the controlled media.

Continue Reading


‘No More!’ The Geopolitical Impact of Souring Relations Between the United States and Pakistan



Donald Trump Pakistan

A Donald Trump led the United States of America bade farewell to the year 2017 in isolation after the contentious Jerusalem issue saw the rest of the world stand united against them in a historic resolution at the UN. They went away with the promise that this stand against them would be remembered by them when the international body, as well as many other countries, looked towards them in their time of need. Now, the USA still seems unfettered in its approach towards having its way on matters of priority as it looks set on losing a long-standing ally in Pakistan. The issue at hand is of the billions of dollars that Pakistan has received in aid from the US to help fight against terrorism in the middle east and the country’s alleged inaction towards the same.

A New Year Resolution: As it happened

Trump’s first tweet of 2018 went as follows. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Then, on Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced that most of the security assistance to Pakistan will be suspended unless there is decisive action on their part against the various militant groups on its soil. The US has already withheld $255 million in military aid to Pakistan, and this move paints a picture of rapidly deteriorating ties between the two countries that have been allies ever since Pakistan was born in 1947.

In response to the allegations and the remarks, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif has said that the country is “ready to publicly provide every detail of the US aid that it has received.” He also added, “We have already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance.” The Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi also chimed in at the international body earlier in the week, ” We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counterterrorism operation anywhere in the world.” She added, “We can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated.” The tone is clear. Pakistan does not look like it is willing to bow down to Trump and as far as the cut in aid is concerned, it is not easy to estimate exactly what the amount is in question. Current estimates put the figure at over $900 million. It is also important to keep in mind that the aid to Pakistan in question has already been deteriorating over the years.

So is there enough reason for Pakistan to be worried?

It’s then worth a look whether this move by the US is enough in itself to make Pakistan act the way it wants it to. More importantly, how much is Pakistan likely to suffer, if at all, from the announced cut in the aid? Despite, the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s claims that the aid from the US does not amount to much today, experts believe that the cuts will cause short-term problems for the Pakistani military. “It will also be a setback in the long term as China or any other friendly country cannot totally replace the resources that Pakistan needs to keep its military machine well oiled”, says Prof. Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defence analyst and author of ‘Military, State and Society in Pakistan’. As cooperation between the two countries looks increasingly unlikely, critics of Pakistan’s inaction have also called for stripping of the nation’s title as a non-NATO ally and imposition of sanctions to coerce them into following the US vision.

The risks involved with tough measures

It is important to remember however that the US is dealing with a double-edged sword here. In recent years Pakistan has tried to make it clear that it is not as dependent on the US as many would make it seem. Pakistan is still the key to most of the involvement of the United States in Afghanistan since it controls most of the supply lines for the transfer of material into the country. Should Pakistan deny the US access to these lines, the US may face a six-fold increase in costs to over a $100 million in order to move military equipment and personnel into Afghanistan.

The US does not want instability in Pakistan since that could have drastic consequences for the region. Perhaps it is for that reason that they’re still providing Pakistan with non-military aid, albeit more carefully. Neither does Pakistan want a situation where it is completely cut off from the United States for that could deal a severe blow to them in their attempts to portray themselves as a more responsible nation and check India’s power in the subcontinent. However, should the matter at hand take a turn for the worse, the US won’t need a second invitation to pursue a more aggressive approach in the region with more involvement from India and Afghanistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, will almost certainly have the backing of its all-weather ally China in countering the move to maintain a power balance in South Asia when the game is afoot for a new geopolitical competition, with the same old motives.

Continue Reading


Struggling over Water Resources: The case of India and Pakistan



Indus water treaty


Have you heard about conflicts over water? Have you ever wondered how hard it is to ensure water access in a conflicted area?  Well, what I can tell is that you have certainly heard how people are dying from thirst and hunger or how they getting sick because of lack of water.  What you might not know is that sometimes it is hard to ensure adequate access to water. What are the reasons? In fact, there are many, but this article will focus on one of the reasons: a conflict. We will take a specific example of India and Pakistan, explain the reasons for the water dispute and evaluate the current situation with water resources.

To begin with, do you know that it has been only seven years since the recognition of the right to water and sanitation? Before that there was a long debate whether this right exists at all. Neither the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights nor the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) address water. Not earlier than 2010, the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have finally adopted resolution which recognized access to clean water, sanitation as human right (GA/10967).

To ensure this right is not an easy job. First of all, water situation in some regions is aggravated by its geographic position. Increasing population, the impact of economic development, climate change only makes it harder. These factors results in scarcity of fresh water. Moreover, water has another quality that makes it even more significant – its irreplaceability. Secondly, some regions are additionally involved into conflicts which make access to water more difficult. What makes it even more complicated is the fact that many river basins and aquifer systems are being shared by different states.

When something is shared, it sometimes gives precedent to a dispute. In case of two countries, it definitely does. This is the case between India and Pakistan which share the Indus basin. Currently both countries are experiencing lack of water, whereas water demand is rising and water resources of the Indus River continue to deplete. Some say that the situation in Pakistan is even worse, where the flow of river is dropping at seven percent yearly (See Baqai 2005, at 77). Thus, the river basin is giving rise for a dispute. Given the history of long-rivalry, it may result into a war.

The water dispute between Indian and Pakistan dates back to the early 20th century, but at that time it was a provincial conflict over the river to be resolved by British India. In 1947 India and Pakistan were partitioned, and the natural borders of river Beas, Chenab, Jhelum and Sutlej have been neglected. Many dams stayed in India, while their waters irrigated a major part of Pakistan. The geography of partition left the source rivers in India, and Pakistan felt threatened by its control. Moreover, the situation with Kashmir presented additional difficulties. Apart from its strategic value, the Eastern waters of Kashmir are significant for Pakistan in terms of resource access (its irrigation system largely depends on it).

Soon after the partition, a major crisis occurred when the Government of the Eastern Punjab (India) took its sovereign rights over the territorial waters and blocked Sutlej river, stopping water flow to Pakistan and causing agriculture of Pakistan severe damage. This precedent stayed in the collective memory of Pakistan, leaving fear that India could repeat its actions.  India yet claimed that it was caused by Pakistani actions in Kashmir. Even today Pakistan feels insecure by its neighbour’s power over the Indus river.

By 1951 the conflict became more dangerous as both states refused to discuss the matter.  That’s why, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (today’s World Bank) was approached to mediate the conflict. It was not until 1960 when the parties finally reached an agreement and signed the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

To ensure the best solutions the Permanent Indus Commission represented by both sides was established. Until 2015 the meetings were held regularly once a year to resolve problems, but after that none of them happened because of the tensions in the relations of India and Pakistan.

Only in March 2017 the meeting took place with Pakistan welcoming the Indian delegation. The World Bank was asked again to intervene but it refused, leaving two countries for a face-to-face dialogue. Even though the meeting did take place, it was decided to suspend further talks.

The current water dispute between two states is shaped by the following factors. First of all, it is fast growing population rate which puts enormous pressure on resources. Secondly, there is inefficient and inadequate use of water resources as well as increased demand for water as a result of economic growth. Thirdly, water stress is becoming more severe and it is further aggravated by climate change. Apart from this, one can see a reason for a dispute in inability and reluctance of political leaders of India and Pakistan to resolve the issue. As it is heated by the public opinion from both sides, the issues continues to be on the agenda. Additionally, there are grievances caused by the IWT which influence the dynamics of the dispute.

However successful the Indus Water Treaty may be, it remains to keep low profile and failed to reach its full potential. Both parties did agree on a partition of the Rivers, yet they did not pay specific attention to the other challenging parts of the agreement such as optimization of the use of the Indus waters (Chari 2014, at 5).  Further, there is little information in regards to the groundwater use. It also does not address such issues as the division of shortages during dry years and technical specifications of hydropower projects of India, particularly impact of storages on the flows of the Chenab River to Pakistan [1].

Such weaknesses of the Treaty are consequently becoming a source of tension. It gives space for different interpretation, and this is used by both countries to their advantage. The IWT lacks its dynamics towards water resource sharing and has to be adjusted accordingly. Though the Indus Water Treaty did prevent a possible escalation over the water resources, it did not foresee the future depletion of the Indus River caused by population growth, new developments in industry, and more importantly by climate change and global warming. Back into 1960 it was not well-studied or discussed as often as now, hence, it was not given required attention. That is why many call to rethink the agreement and include new pressing issues into the Treaty.

Moreover, there has been an intensive debate in India to revoke the Treaty. It was the Uri attack that laid ground for it. An Indian analyst of water disputes and geostrategic developments, Chellaney suggested India should draw a clear line between the right of Pakistan to water inflows and its responsibility not to harm its upper riparian neighbour [2]. In response, Pakistan warned that any attempts to review and/or exit the treaty would be deemed “an act of war” [3]. Regardless, the Government of India remained mostly silent. The parties are not willing to cooperate; therefore the ITW is weakened by it.

In September 2016, the Prime Minister of India, Narenda Modi, referring the ITW, said that “blood and water cannot flow together” [4].   It was also stated that only in “atmosphere free of terror” the meeting of Indus Water Commission was possible (Ibid.). India has repeatedly mentioned altering and/or exiting the ITW, although there is no exit close in the Treaty.

It should be noted that in case of a conflict the UN Watercourses Convention of 1997 gives special attention to the “requirements of vital human needs” (Article 10, part 2).  International Law Commission clarifies these needs and say that there should be “sufficient water to sustain human life, including both drinking water and water required for the production of food in order to prevent starvation” [5]. This refers to the right to water of individuals, and the fact that States should respect and protect these rights.

Political tensions between India and Pakistan have worsened and made it difficult to settle even water issues. In this sense, the Kashmir conflict is inseparable from a water conflict. Many cooperative decisions were impossible because of parties’ inability to make any progress on the Kashmir question.

 There is also a high level of securitization of water issues. To securitize means to construct a certain threat (for example, by means of authority). These threats are being dramatized and usually presented as a high-priority for a nation. Political leaders of Pakistan securitize this issue to the extent that it is described as a threat to national security. That makes a dispute more dangerous because water issues are being constructed as threat to a country.

Pakistan has more than once declared that if Pakistan’s need for water is used by India to pressure them, the country will consider it as a direct threat against Pakistani people.  Environmental security is intertwined with the risks of violent conflict, mostly because stress in resources (e.g. water scarcity). It is also usually associated with the growing population rate and inequitable distribution of resources.

Sometimes the Kashmir dispute is also explained through headstreams of the Indus. Indian control over it likely pressures Pakistan especially during dry periods of the year. Indian Power projects in Kashmir (like Baglihar Dam) only make Pakistan to securitize water issue even more and treat it as security problem.

All in all, both countries are experiencing an enduring rivalry in regards to many aspects. This rivalry deteriorates the cooperation on water share issues. A high level of mistrust guards many countries’ decisions, that is why cooperative mechanisms usually fail. Moreover, the water issues are being regarded as a matter of national security that may escalate the situation. As water quality and quantity continues to be influenced by climate change, population rate continues to increase, demand for water continues to rise, and both countries continue to blame and accuse each other… it does not look like countries are ready to have a face-to-face dialogue over water resources any time soon. But let’s wait and see.


  1. P. Chadha, “Indus Water Treaty may not survive, warns UN report” India Water Review, 1 March 2017. Available from [].
  2. A. Parvaiz, “Indus Waters Treaty rides out latest crisis” Understanding Asia’s Water Crisis, 15 September 2016. Available from [].
  3. Dr. Jorgic, T. Wilkes, “Pakistan warns of ‘water war’ with India if decades-old treaty violated” Reuters, 27 September 2016. Available from [].
  4. Express Web Desk, “Blood and water cannot flow together: PM Modi at Indus Water Treaty meeting”, The Indian Express, 27 September 2016. Available from [].
  5. International Law Commission, “Draft Articles on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses and commentaries thereto and resolution on transboundary confined groundwater” (1994) Part II Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 89. Available from [].
Continue Reading


Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: It’s time to change



Started on the soil of Afghanistan, when this war crossed the border and came to Pakistan, neither Pakistani government, nor US wants to clear this thing. Regular drone attacks in Pakistan with poor precision and accuracy is haunting the civilians part their opinion from US and Pakistani government, resulting into sympathy and support for extremists. 

Now the question is for how long Pakistan’s foreign policy will continue this kind of alliance with US which resulted into over 40,000 deaths, $80+ billion in losses, growing insecurity and mounting fear among Pakistanis. Is this alliance feasible when India, China and Russia are deciding their active role in Afghanistan post US.

Between 2002-2010, US Congress approved $18 billion in financial aid to Pakistan, which they claim that roughly 70% of which has been misused by Pakistan between 2002-07 in other things or in anti India activities. Pakistani people have been questioning their government regarding the money, especially when it comes out from another reports that Pakistan Treasury only received $8.647 in direct financial payments out of total $18 billion approved. This conditional Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which Pakistan receives for assisting the USA is nothing compared to the loss of $80+ billion which Pakistan claims.

Pakistan's foreign policy

Pakistani firefighters extinguish burning vechiles after a bomb explosion in Quetta.(AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)

Ally or Client State?

As we sum up what has been said above, and if you agree to my points then everything suggests Pakistan as a client state of US rather than a US ally. This cold war era style tactics that America has been using in Pakistan needs to be dealt with a change in Pakistan’s foreign policy which is also required for peace in Afghanistan even after the withdrawal of US next year

Change in Pakistan’s foreign policy

Pakistan has to reconsider its policy to suit it well in the region in 2014. Most of the Taliban and Al-qaeda attacks in Pakistan are due to Pakistan’s support to US in war against terror. If Pakistan shifts its policy, this might raise confidence level in Taliban and other terrorist networks. This can be good for Pakistan, but the new players, Russia, China and India, who want to play their roles in the development of Afghanistan will not like this. At this, Pakistan has to think whether it wants return of sponsored government in Afghanistan and let it burn to fuel Pakistan’s internal security or allow an independent government that maintains good relations with everyone including India.

Afghanistan interests both South Asia and Central Asia. neighbouring countries like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are area of concern for China and Russia and any terrorist outbreak in that region can harm their interests in Central Asia, and similarly it is important for India and Pakistan who have been blaming each other of using Afghanistan’s soil against each other.

Pakistan is not in an easy situation. Pakistan’s priority would be to secure its western borders and concentrate on eastern border with India, which is exactly what it did using Taliban. However, this time India which has been trying to lure Afghanistan providing economic aid, infrastructure development and education to keep Pakistan at bay. With the inclusion of China and Russia, we have to see what happens in Afghanistan. After America, we are talking about what Pakistan, China, Russia, and India will do in Afghanistan. It is a pity that no one talks what Afghanistan will do in Afghanistan.

Continue Reading