Foreign Relations - Pakistan & U.S.A. - Background
Although Pakistan's foreign policy has been dominated by problems with India as well as by efforts to maximize its own external support, its relationship with the West, particularly Britain and the United States, is of major importance. At independence in 1947, Pakistan became a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Over the years, however, there was disillusionment at what Pakistanis perceived as Britain's indifference toward Pakistan and its failure to treat Pakistan fairly in dealings where India was involved.
Pakistan's geostrategic position made it a valuable partner in Western alliance systems to contain the spread of communism. In 1954 Pakistan signed a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the United States and subsequently became a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and CENTO. These agreements placed Pakistan in the United States sphere of influence. Pakistan was also used as a base for United States military reconnaissance flights over Soviet territory. During the Cold War years, Pakistan was considered one of Washington's closest allies in Asia.
Pakistan, in return, received large amounts of economic and military assistance. The program of military assistance continued until the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War when President Lyndon B. Johnson placed an embargo on arms shipments to Pakistan and India. The United States embargo on arms shipments to Pakistan remained in place during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and was not lifted until 1975, during the administration of President Gerald R. Ford.
United States-Pakistani relations preceding the 1971 war were characterized by poor communications and much confusion. The administration of President Richard M. Nixon was forced to formulate a public stance on the brutal crackdown on East Pakistanis by West Pakistani troops that began in March 25, 1971, and it maintained that the crackdown was essentially an internal affair of Pakistan in which direct intervention of outside powers was to be avoided. The Nixon administration expressed its concern about human rights violations to Pakistan and restricted the flow of assistance — yet it stopped short of an open condemnation.
Despite the widely publicized United States "tilt" toward Pakistan during the 1971 war, Pakistan's new leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, felt betrayed. In his opinion, the United States could have prevented India from intervening in Pakistan's civil war, thereby saving his country the trauma of defeat and dismemberment. Bhutto strove to lessen Pakistan's dependence on the United States.
The foreign policy Bhutto envisioned would place Pakistan at the forefront of Islamic nations. Issues central to the developing world would take precedence in foreign affairs over those of the superpowers. Bhutto called this policy "bilateralism," which implied neutrality in the Cold War with equal treatment accorded both superpowers. Bhutto's distancing of Islamabad from Washington and other Western links was accompanied by Pakistan's renewed bid for leadership in the developing world.
Following the loss of the East Wing, Pakistan withdrew from SEATO. Pakistan's military links with the West continued to decline throughout Bhutto's tenure in power and into the first years of the Zia regime. When CENTO was disbanded in March 1979, Pakistan joined the Nonaligned Movement. Zia also continued Bhutto's policy of developing Pakistan's nuclear capability.
This policy had originated as a defensive measure in reaction to India's explosion of a nuclear device in 1974. In April 1979, PresidentJimmy Carter cut off economic assistance to Pakistan, except for food assistance, as required under the Symington Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. This amendment called for ceasing economic assistance to nonnuclear weapon countries that imported uranium-enrichment technology.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan were further strained in November 1979 when protesters sacked the United States embassy in Islamabad, resulting in the death of four persons. The violence had been sparked by a false report that the United States was involved in a fire at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 revived the close relationship between Pakistan and the United States. Initially, however, the Carter administration's offer the following month of US$400 million in economic and military aid to Pakistan was spurned by Zia, who termed it "peanuts."
Under President Ronald Reagan, the United States agreed in 1981 to provide US$3.2 billion to Pakistan over a period of six years, equally divided between economic and military assistance. However, although the Symington Amendment was waived, the amount was subject to the annual appropriation process. A second economic and military assistance program was announced in 1986, this time for over US$4.0 billion, with 57 percent for economic assistance.
The continuation of the war in Afghanistan led to waivers — in the case of Pakistan — of legislative restrictions on providing aid to countries with nuclear programs. The Pressler Amendment of 1985 required that if the United States president could not certify to Congress on an annual basis that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon, United States assistance to that country would be cut off. For several years, the United States president, with Pakistan's assurances that its nuclear program was for peaceful uses, was able to make this certification.
However, with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the end of the Cold War, the United States took a harder position on the nuclear weapons issue. In 1990 President George Bush refused to make the certification required under the Pressler Amendment, and assistance to Pakistan was subsequently terminated.
After 1990 Pakistan's retention of the nuclear option became a defining issue in its relations with the United States. Pakistan, like India, considered the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to be discriminatory—allowing the five acknowledged nuclear states to keep their weapons while banning others from joining the club. Pakistan declared that it would sign the treaty only in the unlikely event that India did so first. India refused to join any regional accord as long as China possessed nuclear weapons. Although the United States government continued to push both India and Pakistan for a regional solution to the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, Pakistan complained that it bore the brunt of United States antiproliferation policies.
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