In an interview with Dawn.Com, Teresita Schaffer discusses Pakistan’s “three marriages and two divorces” with the United States, the challenge of the two countries’ strategic gap, the impact when one country withholds information from the other, and some of Pakistan’s negotiating successes with the United States.
have had three ‘marriages’ and two ‘divorces’. Are the interests that lead to an eventful marriage and factors which caused divorce always the same, or do they keep changing with every new partnership?
A. The immediate impetus for the three marriages came from factors external to Pakistan, such as the Cold War and Afghanistan. What caused the two divorces is different.
The first divorce came in 1965 during the Pakistan-India war, when Pakistan used U.S.-supplied weapons, which Washington had warned were not supposed to be used against each other.
Pakistan’s nuclear program caused the second divorce. In the 1980s, the U.S. restored a large aid program to Pakistan, but to get the aid through Congress, it also had to pass the Pressler Amendment. In 1990s, the U.S. could no longer certify that Pakistan possessed a nuclear explosive device because of which its assistance had to be cut-off.
In both cases, divorce was the culmination of Pakistan’s unwillingness to accept U.S. terms and conditions.
Q. What would you describe as the striking findings of your study about
’s negotiating style with the
A. There are three big influences on Pakistan’s negating style with the United States. The first is Pakistan’s view of its place in the world with India as the perpetual enemy and the U.S. as an unfaithful ally. The second is the supreme importance of personal connections in the Pakistani culture. The third influence is the complicated structure of the government and complex relationship between the military, civil administration and the bureaucracy.
Pakistan tries to put the United States on a guilt trip and has been remarkably successful in doing that.
has historically personalized rather than institutionalize relations with
. How much has that benefitted both the countries?
A. Both the sides have personalised the relationship. Without some degree of personalization you are not going to get anywhere with a Pakistani leader. But by allowing the personal relationship to substitute for an institutional one, the United States makes itself vulnerable to the guilt trip.
Q. Do you see a dichotomy between the objectives of a U.S.-Pakistan strategic alliance and expectations of both the countries from each other?
A. Yes. This is the real challenge of U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The assumption during all three alliances was that our strategic interests were the same. In fact, they had some points in common, but were not the same. The key to these differences in each case has been India.
For Pakistanis, India is the long-term existential threat. For the United States, India is not an enemy. In Afghanistan, Pakistan’s prime objective is to minimize Indian influence, but the U.S. goal is to minimize the al Qaeda influence. These are not the same.
My biggest concern is that Washington is signaling to Russia that it’s OK to meddle in the politics of sovereign nations which are your neighbors. Meddling is going on from Paris to Ukraine, from east to west and north to south, within Europe and at its borders, and always with the intent of undermining the credibility and effectiveness of democratic institutions. And it is being either denied or downplayed.