US and Pakistan: Equal Partners in the Defense of Democracy
19 July, 2006
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
For all the anger that is found against "American imperialism", if one tries to imagine the alternative- if Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia had triumphed in the various conflicts of the 20 th century- the US, as a superpower, is nothing short of a blessing for our times. That some countries would be stronger and others less so, is the natural order of things, but the existence of a great bastion of freedom at the very top is a stabilizing factor. Many small states today look towards the US for help and support when threatened by stronger regional powers.
Had there been no US, as a Pakistani, I would feel quite insecure in wake of the recent terror attacks in Mumbai. Terrorists targeted India's greatest metropolis for one reason alone: To halt the peace process between Pakistan and India and to distract Pakistan from fighting the ongoing war on terror by pulling its troops from that front and putting them on the Indian one. Indian powers that be, knowingly or unknowing, walked into the terrorists' trap. The peace process has been halted. Routine threats are being issued to Pakistan, despite the fact that there isn't even a small shred of evidence linking the country to the Mumbai terror attacks. Faced by a nuclear armed bully with ambitions beyond the South Asian region, Pakistan has no option but to look to the US, its old friend and trusted ally, to weigh in on the bellicose Indian administration.
The truth is that Pakistan's name has been associated too long with a lot of negatives, but is the common American or for that matter any member of the free world aware of the enormous sacrifices Pakistan and its people have rendered in the cause of the world's freedom and liberty? When a future historian will write the history of the world, I am sure that he will record just how much Pakistan did, especially for the cause of freedom and liberty in the world at large and how much the nascent nation state was blamed for events that lay outside its sphere of influence.
Let us start from World War II. Even before Pakistan came into being, the founding fathers of the country-to-be made the crucial decision of backing the allied war effort despite the fact that the impulse of independence in them was second to none. They were led by a barrister trained at the Inns of Court, Mahomed Ali Jinnah, who had imbibed the spirit of liberal democracy from philosophers like John Morley and shared the world view of his friend Winston Churchill. Thus the decision to support the allied war effort against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was a deeply ideological one. This stood in sharp contrast to its rival group the Indian National Congress which both overtly and covertly sought Nazi and Imperial Japanese help in their causes and constantly tried to sabotage the allies. While one famous Indian leader, Subhas Chanderbose, went so far as to meet even Adolf Hitler, Gandhi, known to share the racial views of the fuhrer, and Nehru obstructed the war effort by starting the "Quit India" movement at the most inopportune time to embarrass the British and facilitate a Nazi attack. The Indian bourgeoisie leadership's support for Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was thus also ideologically motivated. Today this aspect of India's so called freedom struggle is white washed in the west and a sanitized version is presented to impressionable young children who remain blissfully unaware of these facts even when they grow up. Infact it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that independence of India has more to do with American pressure and domestic British upheaval than with the glorious freedom struggle that Indians don't tire telling the world about.
In any event, after its formal creation in 1947, Pakistan quickly became part of the Baghdad Pact, SENTO and SEATO pacts, all designed to contain the tide of Soviet expansionism. In a bipolar world, Pakistan made a clear and distinct choice and chose to side with forces of liberty and democracy , while our Eastern neighbor self righteously put up a façade of "non-alignment". In reality India was the most allied ally of the Soviet Union and an equal partner in what Ronald Reagan once referred to as the "Evil Empire". Later most hypocritically, the finest Indian intellectuals sought to define their stance as "cooperative nonalignment", another eyewash in a series designed to fool the world. Later India and the Soviet Union together sponsored an extremist Bengali terrorist group called Mukti Bahini, which let loose a reign of terror, murder, arson and rape on hapless Pakistani citizens, ultimately leading to the break of the Pakistani Union.
Despite its reverses, which included the break of the country itself and a costly war with India, Pakistan continued steadfastly in its resolve to stand as a bulwark of peace and freedom against the red flood. In 1972 , Pakistan achieved the impossible task of bringing two of its closes allies, ideologically poles apart, United States and China together by arranging the famous Nixon-Mao meeting. This was the turning point in the cold war for China's isolation from the Soviet nexus, strengthened US' position in Asia and allowed it to end a futile and increasingly costly war in Vietnam. Meanwhile US and Pakistan swiftly moved to counter increasing Soviet influence in Kabul by arming and training Islamic fighters, once considered freedom fighters and now terrorists. The Indo-Soviet axis struck back by backing another terrorist insurgency in the province of Balochistan which led to massive bloodshed and violence. Meanwhile a full fledged Soviet invasion, with Indian help, of Afghanistan escalated the insurgency there into a full scale war. Eight years of prolonged conflict, during which Pakistan faced some of the worst crises of its history including 3 million refugees fleeing Indo-Soviet tyranny, Indian sponsored terrorism aimed at disrupting public life in the country, irreparable damage to its democracy and the rise of religious extremism, saw the defeat and fall of Soviet Union and later the reunification of Germany. According to one US Congressman, Charlie Wilson, all this would have been impossible without the help and support of the Pakistani republic. Thus it was Pakistan that delivered the knock out punch to the evil empire.
Sadly once the cold war was done and over with, the policy makers in the US suddenly forgot about its erstwhile ally and instead of jointly dealing with the fall out of the Afghan war i.e. holy warriors, Pakistan was abandoned to deal with them exclusively. As with Afghanistan, policy makers in Islamabad sought to repeat the same routine with India in Kashmir. However by this time, India was already beginning to emerge as an attractive market for US investment and therefore the insurgency in Kashmir turned out to be counterproductive, earning Pakistan several snubs from its old ally. It took 9/11 for the US to finally wake up to the unfinished business of Afghanistan and realize how big of a mistake it was to sideline Pakistan in favor of Indian markets. Today Pakistan's contribution to the war on terror is perhaps second only to the United States. It has apprehended more Al Qaeda terrorists than any other country in the world and has lost a large number of its troops in doing so. Yet, both Afghanistan and India, the nexus between whom was the root cause of the Afghan conflict, take a self righteous attitude blaming Pakistan for every single thing under the sun. The American establishment is far more discerning and has so far resisted any temptation to second Indian and Afghan claims. It goes without saying that the actions of these countries, as in history, are designed only to sabotage the war against terror and nothing else.
It would not be true however to suggest that Pakistan's position vis a vis the US is that of a client or rentier state. Infact Pakistan's support for the US has never been based on political expediency. For a country so closely allied with the US, Pakistan has showed remarkable dissent from US policies where there was a genuine grievance. Despite being an all out ally of the US, Pakistan has refused to accept the American position on Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Meanwhile the self righteously "independent" and "non-aligned" Indian republic abandoned the pipeline in return for a civilian nuclear deal. Therefore Pakistan's support to the US is based on uniformity of world view and common global objectives.
Regardless of the negative propaganda against Pakistan that is found in certain quarters of the western media, Pakistan must put its head down and keep working towards the noble objectives on which it was founded i.e. democracy and a free and peaceful world. It must continue to play its role as the bridge builder between the United States, China and the Islamic World, the three blocs closest to its heart. Pakistan's future lies in being a broker of peace and security and in an ever-more fractured world, a pivot of stability. And while mindful of its international role and responsibility, the country must also endeavor to work towards becoming a true constitutional democracy so that Jinnah's vision of "US and Pakistan as equal partners in defense of democracy" can finally come true.