Photo: AFP/Andrew Harnik
Mike Pompeo has taken a tough line against China. Photo: AFP/Andrew Harnik

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Pakistan this Wednesday, he will be representing one of the first nations that had established diplomatic relations with Islamabad. However, the seven decades of US-Pakistan ties since then have been been far from smooth.

During the Cold War, Pakistan was big supporter of the US and protected American interests in the region, including during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan was also close ally in the “war on terror” after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

However, although Pakistan extends a cordial hand of friendship to the US whenever it needs support, the US always steps back when it no longer needs a Pakistani role in an issue, and relations decline. Pakistan has faced some of the toughest and strictest US sanctions in history.

The two countries have always cooperated with each other on their common goals and interests, though the US has failed to value Pakistan’s interests and has kept on making demands. “Do more” has been the message of the US leadership in recent years, without understanding Pakistan’s capacity to comply, or its own interests.

During the past few years, the US has blamed and threatened Pakistan. Of course there exist some concerns on both sides, and some of these may be genuine, but some are based on misunderstandings only.

US allegations

One of these issues is the US allegation that Pakistan has failed to eradicate the Taliban from its territory. But the fact is it is the US that has not eliminated the Taliban from Afghanistan, despite being a superpower with a massive army stationed in Afghanistan and the latest and most innovative weapons, as well as the political and moral support of the United Nations and the whole international community. On the other hand, Pakistan is a much weaker state than the US, poor economically and backward in weapons and technology. So how can Pakistan eliminate the Taliban completely, while the US has also failed? Pakistan cannot be blamed for US failures in Afghanistan.

A second allegation is that Pakistan is providing safe havens to Taliban from where they continue their operations. Yet the US has been fighting for at least 16 years in Afghanistan, with a well-trained, well-equipped army, but has not been able to occupy or control Afghanistan completely.

Currently, 60% of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban. Americans cannot walk freely and fearlessly in the streets of Kabul. They are not safe except inside military camps. In practical terms it is the Taliban who rule most of Afghanistan, not the US-supported government of President Ashraf Ghani. Under these circumstances, why would Taliban need to seek refuge inside Pakistan, if they can freely operate inside Afghanistan? This is especially so after the Pakistan Army has launched a massive operation in border areas along with the Afghan government and cleared the whole region of Taliban.

A third allegation is that US has provided aid to Pakistan in return for support in its “war on terror” but has seen little return on that investment. Pakistan has received US$33 billion in total over a period of 16 years.

However, actual economic assistance during that period was only $10.8 billion, or $678 million per year on average, which is really a meager amount and has no major significance to Pakistan. The rest was actually the expenditure occurred by Pakistan and verified by the US side and then reimbursed to Pakistan or through need-based sales of military hardware to Pakistan.

The mode of economic assistance was also highly politicized and provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A major part of it has gone back to US consultants and some to the ruling or political elite in Pakistan as bribes. The actual amount on real contributions toward the Pakistani people is negligible. Therefore on the ground there has been almost no trickle-down impact on the common man. All of these details are well documented and based on mutually agreed procedures, which are available for audit at any moment if desired by the US.

A fourth allegation, thought not made very openly, is that Pakistan is providing space to China. It is a fact, however, that since the USSR collapsed leaving the US as the world’s only superpower, it has launched direct attacks on the Muslim world and caused massive destruction in many Muslim countries including Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. The US has gained huge economic benefits through these wars and has conducted live tests and trials of new weapons, technologies and war techniques.

But now the US is facing challenges, starting in Syria, where Russia has halted the US-led strategy to remove Bashar al-Assad as president of that country. The US is also facing difficulties over its threats against North Korea and effort to recognize Israel’s capital as Jerusalem. In fact, the US faced a defeat in a recent UN General Assembly session on the issue of Jerusalem by seeing only nine votes in favor against 128 against, with 35 abstentions. Even close US allies did not vote in its favor.

Honestly speaking, the US has been exposed in front of the world, that its role for the last several decades has been only making war, killing innocent people, destroying humanity, occupying the resources of other countries, carrying out conspiracies against other nations, conducting sabotage and spreading hate.

Meanwhile, China is rising as hope for the oppressed world. It has launched the massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with $900 billion worth of investment. It will improve regional connectivity and will help promote economic activities, as well as creating job opportunities, eliminating poverty, and promoting cooperation and security. Simply put, it is a message of “Peace, Harmony and Development.”

The US predicts that China will grow economically, politically, and militarily in the near future. The Americans are scared of China’s rapid development and feel insecure that China may become their competitor on world leadership in the very near future. They are trying to curtail China and are making close alliances with the countries around China such as India, Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines.

The US might be expecting Pakistan to curtail China, which is out of question for Pakistan.

Pakistan has enjoyed a long history of friendship with China and this relationship is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. This all-weather friendship is time-tested, in all dimensions

Pakistan has enjoyed a long history of friendship with China and this relationship is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. This all-weather friendship is time-tested, in all dimensions. Our relations are based on mutual respect, non-interference, and mutual interests, and are in accordance with the best international practices.

Pakistan fully supports the BRI and is one of the biggest beneficiaries of it. Pakistan and China are working closely on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), to make it a model for the rest of the world.

Pakistan cannot compromise on its relations with China at all. Meanwhile the US is using India to disrupt CPEC, providing the latest technologies, latest weapons and new tactics, logistics, and intelligence support to India.

Pakistan’s concerns

The US is supporting India militarily, which is a direct threat to Pakistan’s security. Transfer of advanced technologies may lead India to develop weapons of mass destruction, which will destabilize not only this region but the whole world. The recent arms deal signed with India worth %8 billion is a direct threat to the whole region, it may start an arms race and confrontation between India and all its neighbors.

US policies are offensive to many nations worldwide and forcing them to join clubs of the other side. The US is facing isolation globally. It needs to revise its current policies and understand emerging trends and to learn how to respect others’ needs.

The US has announced it will cut aid to Pakistan. First of all, US aid is very meager and Pakistan is not dependent on US financial support any more. Especially with the launch of CPEC, US aid is meaningless to Pakistan.

The US is blaming Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan, which is not justified at all. The US must accept its defeat and face the mess it has created in Afghanistan.

The US wants an Indian role in Afghanistan, replacing Pakistan, which is not possible. India does not have a common border with Afghanistan, has nothing in common with it, nor any understanding of Afghan culture, traditions, and history. Meanwhile Pakistan has a common border, a common culture, tradition, religion, ethnicity and blood relations. Pakistan has hosted 3 million Afghan refugees since the 1980s. The US must understand ground realities and Pakistan’s importance.

The US is pressuring Pakistan to oppose the BRI, CPEC, and China itself. But any tactics played by the US will not harm Pakistan-China relations and the CPEC will keep moving forward at any cost. Both China and Pakistan are on the same page, and complete harmony exists between us.

Pakistan has suffered economic losses worth $123 billion due to the “war on terror.” Pakistan has sacrificed more than 70,000 precious lives, including 5,000 servicemen, and even schoolchildren. We have officially hosted 3.5 million Afghan refugees, but unofficially, counting the unregistered, the true number may be around 5 million. We have faced drug issues, gun cultures, and a deterioration of law and order deterioration due to the “war on terror.” Pakistan was a rapidly developing country in the 1960s and 1970s, but because of the “war on terror,” we faced severe deterioration and lost our position in the international community.

We hope the world recognizes our contributions and tries to compensate us. Our vital role may be acknowledged and our struggle for “Peace, Stability and Prosperity” may be supported. We want to regain our status in the international community. We deserve to maintain our sovereignty and make our own decisions in our own national interests. We want to set our own priorities and survive with complete harmony along with the rest of the world.

Pakistan’s geo-strategic importance may be acknowledged and our vital role in this region may be recognized. No other country can replace Pakistan in this part of the world.

The way forward

However, Pakistan is a peace-loving country and our record in the UN peacekeeping force is admirable. Our sacrifices during the “war on terror” go beyond any other country’s.

We promote peace, stability and prosperity all around the globe. Our role in this region is vital. Pakistan’s geo-strategic importance is well known to the US. Think-tanks and military leaders in the US also understand Pakistan’s importance and vital role.

Pakistan wants good relations with all countries and would like to extend all possible support and cooperation for achieving the common goal of “Peace, Stability and Prosperity” throughout the world. We desire to work closely with all countries – including the US.

Zamir Awan

Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.

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