A lot has been written about the security and financial compulsions of Pakistan as it emerged as an independent country. To recapitulate, the Indian leaders and the Hindu community at large had not accepted by heart the division of the Subcontinent into two sovereign states. Their hostility towards Pakistan was reflected in every move after the Partition. This hostility has continued unabated to this day adversely impacting the security atmosphere in the Subcontinent and Pakistan’s relations with the major world powers including the United States of America. Though Pakistan is blamed to have an India-centric foreign policy, the world powers themselves have been viewing their relations with Pakistan from the Indian prism. This was particularly so in case of the USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union.
No doubt, Jawaharlal Nehru was a liberal leader of world stature at a par with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan. He was an idealist. He harboured grand ideals about the independent India being the leader of the South East Asia. He knew that the Subcontinent lying on the mouth of vital regions of South East Asia, Central Asia, Middle East and Africa enjoyed enormous economic and strategic importance and the Ocean surrounding it had vitally served trade and commerce between the East and the West giving predominance to the British Empire as the major world power. The matter of the fact was that the emergence of Pakistan had frustrated Nehru’s ambition to see India substituting the Indian British Empire, or a great power in Asia. The successors of Nehru too continued to entertain this delusional ambition to see India as the leader of the grand Asian region.
Back in the mid-1940s, Nehru wrote in his ‘Discovery of India’ “the Pacific is likely to take the place of the Atlantic in the future as a nerve centre of the world. Though not directly a Pacific State, India will inevitably exercise an important influence there. India will also develop as the centre of economic and political activity in the Indian Ocean, in South East Asia and right up to the Middle East. Her position gives her an economic and strategic importance in a part of the world which is going to develop rapidly in the future. If there is a regional grouping of the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean on either side of India including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma (Myanmar), Malaya (Malaysia), Siam, Java (Indonesia), the present day minority problems will disappear, or at any rate will have to be considered in an entirely different context”.
The reflections of Nehru amply demonstrated that he wanted to replace the British Empire in this region with India as the political and economic leader of groupings of small states. “The small national state is doomed. It may survive as a culturally autonomous area but not as an independent political unit”, he wrote further. In one of his interviews with the Washington Post as quoted by Dawn in its issue of 21 December 1963, he gave vent to his thought about the Subcontinent saying that “confederation remains our ultimate goal, though if we will say it openly they are alarmed that we want to swallow them up”. This was how Nehru thought of India as the leading power or the hegemon of the region before the departure of the British Imperialists and even after the Partition.
The geo-strategic location of India, her sheer size, potential economic resources, and military strength have always heavily weighed on the thinking of the Western scholars and strategic analysts. As a consequence, they have been instrumental in fueling the sense of self importance of India and the idealistic ambition of the Indian leaders for control on the small states of the region. A British scholar, Nicolas Mansergh, wrote in his ‘Commonwealth and Nations’ decades ago that India should ‘recognize that she, by virtue of her geographical position and her capacity for leadership in the South East Asia, has wider responsibilities to fulfill’. He further added that a defence system under the leadership of India would be able to provide security to the states of South East Asia. Many scholars of foreign or Indian origin, interestingly enough, aired such views about India after the hasty British departure from South Asia.
The Indian importance to the Western world received a boost from the rise of the Communist China in the South East Asia which caused the USA leaders to divert their attention from Europe to Asia as they thought the Western economic and strategic interests in South East Asia were in jeopardy. Therefore, the USA and British leaders felt constrained to strategize the Western plans to stop the spread of Communism in this region. With the loss of China to the Communism, the USA could not but look with increasing interests at India. The New York Times, in its issue of 29 August 1952, had outlined that “Nehru was listened to attentively in the USA, not only as the India’s spokesman but as potential spokesman for all Asia”. India claimed to follow a nonaligned policy between the two major blocs. However, she was in effect endeavoring to have a closer understanding with the USA. The unpublicized Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement signed between it and the USA in 1952 and renewed in 1962 reflected this endeavour.
This was the strategic thinking stemming from Washington DC and London after the Communist revolution in China. India was breathing down the neck of the nascent Pakistan which in the diplomatic and strategic jargon of the time was a small state reflecting weak economic and financial resources and rudimentary military power. The Pakistani leadership was at a crossroads. They could see the benefits of keeping clear of the escalating tension between the two super powers. The Soviet Union was delaying the withdrawal of its forces from the northern Iran in 1946 and stoking the secessionist feelings in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan. This was done in an attempt to pressurize Iran to grant them concessions in her oil industry. They were also mounting pressure on Turkey to give them transit rights in the Turkish Strait. There was also a raging Communist insurgency in Greece which could potentially threaten stability in Turkey and the Middle East. These events in the region were not lost on Pakistani leadership.
The main question before our leaders was whether Pakistan could remain a non-aligned country under these conditions. With the perennial security threat from her 800-pound gorilla neighbour swallowing up in quick succession Srinagar, Junagarh and Hyderabad Deccan; the division of the world into two rival super powers striving to outweigh each other even in the regions far off their secure borders, Pakistan was to decide the future direction of her foreign and security policy. In a delicately balanced strategic and ideological war in which the US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was denouncing the policy of neutrality as ‘immoral’, and the Soviets were looking at the world as a battle field between the inhuman Capitalists and the Proletariat, Pakistan could not remain neutral but felt the need to seek alliance with either of the super powers in the tradition of the other weak states.
The domestic conditions of Pakistan were not conducive to joining the Soviet bloc of states with all that ideological battle raging in the country between the Islamists and the secularists and the discovery of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case involving the local Communist leaders in 1951. The Pakistani leadership – educated and trained in the Western institutions and ruling the country in collaboration with the feudal landlords who were notoriously indifferent to the ideological warfare in the country – felt more comfortable with the Western capitalist world than the monolithic and totalitarian Soviet system, denounced as anti-Islam by the clergy. This is how we landed at the USA stables.
We have had cyclical phases of relations with the US ebbing and flowing with the changing geo-political conditions underlying the US interests in the region. Relations between the two countries from 1947 to this day have oscillated between the ‘most allied ally’ and the most ‘sanctioned ally’ as termed by Ambassador Munir Akram in one of his columns, and could be conveniently divided into four phases of 1950-1963, 1964-1980, 1980-2000 and 2001-2017. All these phases are distinct from each other by the depth or otherwise of relations reflective of understandings and misunderstandings, convergence or divergence of views on regional and international issues. Most of the problems between Pakistan and USA have arisen from the USA leaders’ lack of understanding of our geo-strategic compulsions and our legitimate concerns about the potential security threat to the territorial integrity of the country from our giant neighbour. A relationship between a world power and a small state always remains lopsided and fraught with the loss of a fraction of sovereign and independent right of action for the smaller partner. Pakistan had to bear with this loss of independence of action on many occasions. However, on problems and issues affecting our core national interests, we have had the guts to resist and even defy our superpower partner adopting independent positions.
(To be concluded)
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