Is it time for Pakistan to reconsider the US as its ally?

Published: December 27, 2013
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Pakistan's relations with US has done more harm than good. Pakistan needs to explore its relations with Russia, China, India and Iran for better economic development.

Close to 50,000 deaths, over $100 billion in losses, and growing insecurity and fear among the citizens with each passing day.

These are few of the highlights of Pakistan’s involvement in the US-led war on terror that has now been fought for more than 12 years. 

This war which was initiated to target the militants in Afghanistan has haunted and continues to haunt, many innocent civilians, not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan.

The United States, along with its allies, began this war to hunt down the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden and to put an end to the Taliban regime and its activities. However, in spite of the fact that both these motives have been achieved, things have gone from bad to worse in the region.

This raises seemingly obvious questions, the answers to which are also painfully obvious.

How long will this war go on? No one knows.

How many more innocent civilians will Pakistan lose to terrorism? Very few have an idea.

And above all:

Is the alliance with the US really benefiting Pakistan?

That, in my opinion, is the million dollar question we need to be focusing on.

Pakistan has received a total of US$ 15 billion in terms of support and benefits from the United States, as part of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for its role and assistance in the war on terror. But even this CSF is usually released with multiple conditions attached, making it look more like charity than support.

Moreover, Ishaq Dar, Pakistan’s finance minister has recently made a plea to the US ambassador for an early release of the CSF, in order to boost the falling Forex reserves of Pakistan. It would be an understatement to say that the situation does not look well for our economy.

These scenarios, rather than establishing Pakistan as an ally, portray it as a mere ‘client’ state for the US.

The implications and signals are simple for Pakistan and these signals point towards the need for a shift in the country’s foreign policy.

With the United States moving out of Afghanistan in 2014, Pakistan must reconsider its alliances – not only for its own stability but also in the larger interest of the region.

Pak-Russia and Pak-China relations

Important regional stakeholders, such as China and Russia, are keenly interested in post-2014 developments in Afghanistan and this interest is not just confined to Kabul. These two powerful states have their eye out for Central Asia as well, where both Russia and China enjoy valuable strategic assets.

With such concerns in place, Pakistan has an important role to play.

It would be in Pakistan’s best interests to latch on the window of economic opportunity presented in this current scenario. This opportunity would require Pakistan to tilt its international policy focus from the West towards the East. After all, China is currently the world’s second largest economy, with an ever expanding pace. A positive and healthy relationship with this economic giant will provide Pakistan with an opportunity to boost its local and global trade.

The Gwadar Port project, if taken seriously this time, could help both countries establish a sea conduit that could also facilitate the land-locked states of Central Asia.

On the other hand, Russia happens to be a global energy giant. Many of Pakistan’s current energy woes could easily be resolved by reaching out to Moscow in a proper and friendly manner. Russia has even offered to invest in Pakistan’s energy sector recently, along with a possible export of 5000 MWs of electricity through Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

Both Russia and China have, time and again, expressed their interest in taking India and Pakistan on board in the successful Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The SCO, which aims at regional support and cooperation, will provide a wide array of development opportunities to Pakistan.

Pak-Iran and Pak-India relations

Iran, with its proposed gas pipeline deal, can also become a positive factor for Pakistan’s economy.

The gas pipeline project, initiated by the previous government – Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – needs to be effectively concluded by the current Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. Both the US and Saudi Arabia – Iran’s ideological foe – are constantly showing their displeasure over the project. Sandwiched between both these powers, Pakistan has to decide on either pleasing them or furthering its own national interest.

Along with these neighbouring states, positive ties with India – Pakistan’s most important immediate neighbour – would also do nothing but good to our security and economy.

Countries mostly progress on trade, not aid.

Russia, China, Central and South Asia jointly boast a population of over three billion. With such a large number of potential consumers, Pakistan’s ruling establishment has to start focusing on economic, rather than strategic gains and begin the process of trade and business with these regional members.

If Islamabad succeeds in reaching out to its Asian markets, it would no longer be in need of any financial aid from its western allies. It is time for Pakistan to change its alliance and look closer to home. We can potentially think of a better, prosperous and brighter future if we play our cards right.

Farooq Yousaf

Farooq Yousaf

The author is a PhD (Politics) Candidate currently pursuing his studies in Australia. He has previously completed his Masters in Public Policy and Conflict Studies from Germany. He also consults Islamabad-based Security think tank, Centre for Research and Security Studies, and occasionally writes for various news and media sources. He is specialising in Indigenous conflict resolution and counter insurgency. He tweets at @faruqyusaf (twitter.com/faruqyusaf?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Omair Shahid

    couldn’t agree with you more it time for pakistan to look forward and make strong relation with china, Russia , china is very interested in investing in Pakistan and we should make full use of it. USA is has cause nothing but problems in pakistan,it time we pakistan move on.Recommend

  • Guest

    This is wrong on so many levels.

    It is Pakistan’s alliance with religious extremists that is the cause of our ills not our alliance with the US. Neither Russia nor China nor India nor Iran… no-one (apart from North Korea, perhaps) will tolerate this alliance with extremists. Looking ‘east’ with extremists in our nests is pointless.

    Pakistan must do away with religious extremism, particularly the violent/militant kind.. if it is to progress.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    What do you have to offer is the most Important Item in Trade?Recommend

  • mesquite

    All that the US needs is a moderate pakistan which does not support religious extremism and a pakistan which can act responsibly. If money were the only reason for clout, then mao zedong could never have transformed his country. Unfortunately pakistan hides Osama and lies to pakistan. The US is so patient to allow this. If pakistan had played such games with china they would have been shattered to oblivion.

    Moreover, it is stunning how Pakistan can so quickly turn around and forget the fact that US was the only country that supplied pakistan arms, ammunition etc free of cost. including orion aircrafts, F-16 fighters etc. On the other hand china gives pakistan the tech that it copied from russia and found erroneous and has become a best friend.Recommend

  • Ammar Khan

    the only country with which Pakistan can benefit as an alliance is INDIA. Yes. India is next century’s economic powerhouse and without getting into nitty gitty of who is wrong and who is right, I wish to see Pakistan and India as good neighbors. I would even prefer alliance with India over China and saudia any day.Recommend

  • Bilal

    Religious extremism is a term made by Bush era. What you are suggesting is to fight an ideology with gun for your ally US. Even if you hate them you have to engage with them through dialogue. And dont give the typical bullshit that they are not ready to talk. Your ally and ideal US is not letting us create the environment to talk to them and pushing us towards the civil war. These “religious extremists” were with you for 50 years they didn’t try to change you until your US ordered us to send a full fledge army to strike an area with civilians with full might blindly.Recommend

  • Parvez

    What is good for the country is necessarily not good for almost all our leaders. So unless we get leaders who are honest towards the country, discussions like this are pointless.Recommend

  • shamsheer

    bahahah pakistan considering US as its ally?? lol really??? dose it have any guts to reconsider anybody as its ally??? iran closed the pipeline as pakistan cant give money. pakistan fouth soveit in afghanistan so its dreaming about relations with russia!!! india is your eternal enemy as in the kindergarden books of your education system!!! chiona is clever just to toy around with pakistan as communists can never be trusted since they are single party governed country. pakistan relies upon only on turkey which is itself in economic shambles !!!! its a pit pakistan itself have dug in for so many years just to grab aid and have had no sence of international relations !!! now reap your sowing ..Recommend

  • whitesky

    Mr. Author, there is no research in it . it is a search search and search only All nations are driven by their self interest only and there is no exception to it.Recommend

  • vasan

    It is very obvious from this article that Pakisan terms anyone as an “ally” only to milk money from them. From 1948 to 2013 it was the “Commies looking for warm waters” theory that milked USA, “Enemy of enemy is my friend” theory to milk China, “WOT theory and surrendering in the face of the threat and money from USA after 9/11, religion and “Islamic bomb” to milk the Saudis. Was there or is there any tangible benefit for any one to ally with Pak like huge market, IT talent, cheap and efficient labour force or even full time power for any industrial base ? Hardly yes, People become friends for emotional reasons. Nations become allies when their interests are served, Nothing less and nothing more.Recommend

  • J. Robbins

    These are all worthy ideas for boosting national cooperation and Pakistan’s economy. The United States itself has many trade pacts with Russia and China. Go to any Wal-Mart store, and you will see where everything is coming from. However, many small businesses have suffered or closed because of our imports from China. As to the U.S. being to blame for the insurgents, ask yourselves, Did the US set off bombs in your cities that killed 50,000 innocent people? These were voluntary acts; the US did not force the insurgents to commit these callous crimes. Did the US ever issue 18 pre-conditions to “peace” that included forcing a religion on the Pakistan people that would require their women to wear burkas? And finally, did the US deliberately try to kill a young girl because she wanted an education? Who is your enemy here? Has the US ever said they wanted to take over the Pakistani government? This appears to be one of the major goals of your insurgents. It is the Pakistani Taliban that actually threatens the Pakistani government and the security of its nuclear arsenal. Cause goes back a long ways and blaming the US isn’t the answer here. The US isn’t perfect, but neither is China or Russia. Our mission has been limited in scope to only what has been necessary to defeat al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda allies. It is probably safe to say that the US longs to get its troops and stuff back home, to use the money spent overseas to boost our own economy and infrastructure. Whatever, the insurgents have taken root, and in agreement with another guest comment, “looking east with extremists in our nests is pointless.”Recommend

  • BlackJack

    It is ironical that a country formed on the basis of ideology is now willing to rent itself out to the highest bidder. Look at the US-China or Japan-China or India-China trade figures – these astronomical numbers have nothing to do with being ‘allies’. There isn’t a single line in this article which indicates ideological or political reasons on why Pakistan should or shouldn’t ally with any of these countries – but the issue is that Pakistan itself does not think along those lines, and that is why you are looking for someone else to take the US place, which is already a first step in the wrong direction. Russia is not going to build you a gas pipeline because they love you – they will happily do so if you can afford to pay; China gets market access to a highly paranoid client state for a couple of empty statements and some outdated hardware – could there be a better deal? What Pakistan probably needs the most is an outside-in approach to the world.Recommend

  • Anooop

    So you saying LeT and JeM and LeJ didn’t exist till 2000s?Recommend