The United States has declared itself satisfied with Pakistan’s security measures for its nuclear weapons, despite the rise of the Pakistani Taliban and other extremist groups. But the Harvard report says there are serious grounds for concern: “Despite extensive security measures, there is a very real possibility that sympathetic insiders might carry out or assist in a nuclear theft, or that a sophisticated outsider attack (possibly with insider help) could overwhelm the defenses.”
“¦it is also quite possible that in light of the growing economic and military strength of India, pressure could mount within the United States to attend to the Indian interest even at the cost of Pakistans interest.
Subsequently, at their White House meeting on 11 April, President Obama reportedly pressed Gilani to end Pakistan’s opposition to an international treaty that would ban the production of new fissile material for nuclear warheads, plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU). But, according to U.S. officials, the Pakistani leader showed no signs of bowing to the pressure.
Notwithstanding the pro- and anti-Pakistan elements who speak out from time to time in the United States, the relationship between these two nations is in a state of perpetual logjam. The main objective of both sides presently is to make sure that the relationship does not degenerate sharply because that would undermine the interests of both nations. What Washington fears is that a deterioration of bilateral relations would force Pakistan to step up support to various terrorist groups operating inside the country and within Afghanistan, many of which are engaged in an armed insurgency-like warfare against the U.S. and NATO troops. Islamabad fears that the further deterioration of bilateral relations would strengthen the hand of these terrorist groups, which have already gained a significant amount of ground within Pakistan in recent years.
At the same time, both nations are presently engaged in taking measures to eliminate some of the terrorists. While the U.S. approach, at least at this point in time, is to eliminate all of them, Pakistan is still very selective about who it eliminates—and this is another area of potential conflict that could widen the gap in mutual trust.
Jeremy Scahill, writing in The Nation on 31 December 2009, documents the presence of private security personnel of the U.S.-based company Blackwater working hand in glove with the U.S. Joint Special Operation Command (JSOC) on Pakistani soil, although both nations continue to deny this. It is a foregone conclusion that Islamabad not only dislikes this presence of foreign mercenaries but also is deeply fearful that when the issue explodes politically, it will deal a crushing blow to the government. As of now, however, it is convenient for both sides to stay in a state of denial about this development.
The United States is a mighty power, with interests spanning the globe, whose presence in Afghanistan, Central Asia and South Asia is of the utmost importance.
In terms of regional dynamics, it is also quite possible that in light of the growing economic and military strength of India, pressure could mount within the United States to attend to the Indian interest even at the cost of Pakistan’s interest. If Washington was to take a decision at some point in time to adopt such an approach, within the prevailing geometry in South Asia, Pakistan would be significantly shaken. It could also generate a wave of extreme anti-Americanism in Pakistan that would cause a critical rupture in the Washington-Islamabad relationship.
The fact that Pakistan has very few “real” friends in the region where it is located makes the situation more complicated. It has an almost nonexistent relationship with Russia, a hostile relationship with India and very little mutual interest–based interaction with the Central Asian nations. Even in its posture toward its neighbours, Pakistan will continue to be swayed by China and the Middle East nations. Because of its financial needs and requirement for subsidised fuel from the Middle East, Pakistan will have to assuage those parties and may have to accommodate them over and against any other nation in the region, should the situation demand it. That poses a very serious potential threat to U.S. interests.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty in the relationship between the United States and Pakistan lies in closing the differences that separate them in terms of long-term objectives. The United States is a mighty power, with interests spanning the globe, whose presence in Afghanistan, Central Asia and South Asia is of the utmost importance. But the only way Washington can maintain a significant presence in such a vast area is through interaction with the countries involved in maintaining regional stability and matching regional and the American national interests.
This means that the United States cannot afford to antagonise Russia, China, India, the Central Asian countries or the Middle East nations but must seek to work with them. This requires an extremely active and all-encompassing diplomacy that cannot afford to cater to one single nation’s interest in any given region. The key to U.S.–Pakistan relations lies in an intelligent U.S. engagement with the region.