By Fatimeh Munawar
On Friday, 13th November, LUMS conducted a seminar on “The Challenges and Future of Pakistan-US Relations”. The event was chaired by Ambassador Shaharyar M. Khan, Visiting Faculty, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS. The panelists included; Dr.Rabia Akhtar, Director of the Centre of Security, Strategy and Policy Research at the University of Lahore, also Dr. Sameer Lalwani, Deputy Director for the Stimson Centre’s South Asia Programme, Washington, D.C. and Dr.Rasul Bakhsh Rais, Professor of Political Science, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS, Lahore.
Shaharyar M. Khan began shedding light on Pakistan and USA’s relations in the 1960’s, and suggested that the deteriorating relation between these two countries was based on a series of events. These events ranged from the 1962 Indo-China War; where the US provided arms to India making Pakistan question USA’s relation with them on the basis of sincerity, to 1965 when at a time of war the USA cut off their supply of arms to both India and Pakistan due to which Pakistan went through great suffering.
After outlining a series of events that contributed to the“ups and downs” in US-Pak relations, he mentioned that the creation of the nuclear bomb was a time which further posed a challenge to maintain the relation between the two countries. Furthermore, he highlighted instances where the US suspected Pakistan’s motives in certain matters, such as the 1999 nuclear explosion when Pakistan in USA’s eyes was “found to be helping terrorists in Pakistan and Kashmir as well as the Taliban”. Similarly in 9/11 even though Pakistan supported the US, Pakistan’s support was found to be sketchy and according to Shaharyar M. Khan’s thoughts, the USA found Pakistan guilty of “playing a double game”. Truly, his stance provided us with ample food for thought.
Next , Dr. Sameer Lalwani, Deputy Director for the Stimson Centre’s South Asia Program, Washington, D.C.emphasised on the general stability in South Asia in which certain aspects were pointed out; the interests of the US, the past mistakes with Pakistan as well as past US relations.
He also stated that Pakistan and the US should focus more on an economic alliance from now on. In his view the reason for such precarious relations was due to the fact that there have been misconceptions on both sides. One observation he made was that not many scholars from Pakistan take a trip to the US in order to make their case and to clear any existing misunderstandings. Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, Professor of Political Science, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS, Lahore then took the stage and pointed out that any relation between two countries is based on “calculated interests”. Therefore enlightened us with the fact that the relation is not an “emotional love affair but a pragmatic relationship”. Even Pakistan makes independent choices once aid from US is not that forthcoming.
Another striking point of view regarding the ongoing relation between US and Pakistan had been expressed; not only can the US be accused of betrayal but so can Pakistan when there is an inconsistency in their relation at any particular time. One simple statement that he made during the talk spoke volumes, “The greater the power you are, the wiser you are. That is not true.”
Dr .Rabbiya Akhtar, Director of the Centre of Security, Strategy and Policy Research at the University of Lahore then presented information that was absolutely tantalizing to anyone who had a thirst for knowledge.
Her entire view on the relation was based on emphasizing one point, that the relation between these two countries is different from other narratives mentioned which associate the relation to that of “abandonment”. She blatantly said, “Pakistan became the 7th nuclear state. It happened because USA looked the other way”. A truly shocking revelation to most and thus didn’t delve further into this matter. She further elaborated that both countries have used each other.
This was in fact a beautiful insight that tied together their view on the two countries relation at present and that of the near future. A question and answer session, where certain points made during the session were emphasised in more detail, took place after which this talk came to a close.
This seminar made us look at the problems faced by both sides. We can only hope that Pakistan moves forward with its relation with the US on a positive note and can keep it flourishing till the very end.