WHILE dominant states have a clear approach towards client states, the latter suffer from confusion. The former expect client states to adjust to whatever worldview they ascribe to at a given time; only the present matters. Clients, meanwhile, offer reminders of past services rendered and friendlier times. They forget De Gaulle’s maxim: “men can have friends, statesmen not” — so it is with states. Considering their weakness, client states find it difficult to maintain sovereignty. Pakistan’s ties with the US are an example.
Today, Pakistan is concerned with F-16 deliveries and drone strikes in Balochistan. Tomorrow, there will be other concerns. Pakistan feels betrayal when recalling its participation in Seato and Cento; its allegiance during the Cold War; and its role in facilitating diplomatic ties between the US and China in 1970. Despite this, Pakistan did not receive meaningful US support over Kashmir. After the 1965 war with India, the US imposed an arms embargo on both countries. Pakistan suffered more.
Relations between the two countries, however, were warm in 1971. Pakistan had recently delivered its coup de maître in establishing US-China relations. When India attacked Pakistan’s sovereignty in 1971, the Pakistan Army expected that a US fleet in Singapore would intervene in the blockade of East Pakistan. It did move; leisurely, to Karachi, to evacuate American nationals. Given the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty, the US could not risk starting a third world war for Pakistan’s sake.
The US virtually outsourced the Soviet-Afghan war to Pakistan, its ‘most favoured ally outside Nato’. As Pakistan was fighting the Soviets, the Pressler Amendment was passed in 1985, requiring that Pakistan only be granted aid if it did not possess nuclear weapons. After the Najib regime collapsed, the US packed up and left the region to its own devices. Its re-entry after 9/11 was overtaken soon after by events in Iraq which became a priority.
Client states must not step on US toes.
Born of Musharraf’s proclivity for double games, mistrust of Pakistan still persists; it is frequently accused of promoting international terrorism. How does it meet this criticism when Mullah Omar died in Karachi, Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad and Mullah Mansour in Dalbandin? Meanwhile, the US has violated Pakistan’s sovereignty — sending in drones, by some estimates, about 400 times since 2004.
American strength lies in some crucial factors. Its military and naval power is far superior to many powerful countries’; its satellites traverse the skies constantly; and with two oceans as its bulwarks it is not vulnerable to conventional invasion. From this advantageous position it is in a position to attack anywhere, as it did in Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998. Its navy guards all major trade routes; thus, it dictates international trade, the foundation of its wealth and security.
American universities and research institutes are abuzz with new technologies and intellectual output. The US market is huge and is a major consumer of imported goods. Getting out of US markets and technologies will be painful for any country.
The US grip on global financial and political systems is total. Nato, IMF, the World Bank, the UN and most other multilateral institutions are all geared to support American interests around the world. It can buy influence around the world and use various means to sustain it.
If the US bloodied its nose in Vietnam or Afghanistan, it does not affect its position in the world. The Vietnamese and Afghans might take pride in their triumph, but this does not defeat or write off the US. While there are limits to the power of any one nation, even the US, to order the world, should not give false impressions to those it deals with.
The US is powerful. It defines its global interests according to its needs of the time, and then protects and defends them. Client states must not step on its toes.
There is no morality in politics. All politics, national and international, resemble village politics in one way or another. The strong dictate and have their way; the weak submit or leave.
The weak cannot, and should not, feign friendship or enmity with the strong. The strong possess inducements to lure the weak when needed and shrug them off when not.
An insatiable need of foreign aid and loans, regardless of funds’ sources, will choke a country’s sovereignty. Addiction to foreign resources will restrict a country’s manoeuvrability in international relations. It is not only the profligacy of the Pakistani government that is eroding its standing, but also the ideologies of some of its organised groups. Popular opinion feeds on a false notion of Pakistan — as a saviour of the Muslim world — which now accounts for Pakistan’s alienation in the world. No Talleyrand could pull a diplomatic coup under such circumstances.
The writer is a former federal secretary and minister.
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2016