Shahid Javed Burki / Pakistan July 29, 2011, 0:37 IST
Business Standard Sunday, Jul 31, 2011
Shahid Javed Burki explains why mending ties with the US will be harder for Pakistan this time.
Following the rapid deterioration in the relationship between Washington and Islamabad in recent weeks, Pakistan is engaged in an intense review of the available strategic options. Islamabad-Washington relations have never been easy. But despite many ups and downs, there was a recovery every time, especially when the US felt it needed Pakistan to pursue its strategic objectives. In 1979, the US had needed Pakistan’s support to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Again, in 2001, America needed Pakistan’s air space to launch air strikes on Kabul as a punishment for the support it had provided to the terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks in the US.
This time, the rupture is as deep as the one in 1998, when Pakistan tested a nuclear device in the hills of Baluchistan. However, it appears that the repair work will be more difficult this time. This is for three reasons. One, Pakistan’s military leadership seems to have concluded that Washington is too unreliable a partner to bank on for long-term support. The suspension of one-third of the total amount that Washington committed to help the Pakistani military build its capacity to fight terrorism has confirmed the belief that China offers a better alternative for the needed support — of the total amount of $2.64 billion, $800 million have been put on hold. Over the years, Pakistan and China have been engaged in collaborating on a number of large military hardware projects. These include China’s support in building Khalid, a battlefield tank in a facility at Taxila near Islamabad. The Chinese are also partnering Pakistan to develop a fighter plane. Beijing may also invest in developing Gwadar as a deep-water port, which to be used by the naval forces of the two countries. Since Washington treats Beijing as a rival for influence in South Asia, Pakistan’s play with China will be seen as a zero-sum game — China’s gain will be seen as America’s loss.
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