Among the Lions

The Obama visit has put US-India relations back on the right foot—much to Pakistan’s dismay

01 December 2010
An absent Pakistan can only wish to be included in photo-ops like this one.
Jason Reed / REUTERS
An absent Pakistan can only wish to be included in photo-ops like this one.
Jason Reed / REUTERS

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN the United States and Pakistan, which has seen its share of ups and downs over the last six decades, can best be described as one between patron and client. The two countries share no deep affinities, and there have been minimal economic relations and social ties, as the Pakistani diaspora in the US remains quite small.

It has been a ‘friendship’ based on geopolitical considerations and mutual interests: soon after the Cold War began, Washington looked to Pakistan as a counterweight to Soviet influence in South Asia, and Islamabad was prepared to participate in this new Great Game for the sake of gaining an advantage against its arch-enemy, India. Pakistan became a client state of the US, and a rentier state as well; it used its geographical position to command financial and military support from Washington.

The only things that mattered in this relationship were arms, strategic co-operation and military training. Security was the stated rationale for US-Pakistan relations, which explains why the frequency of military coups in Islamabad has never posed a problem for Washington. When the US turned to Pakistan in the wake of 9/11, yet another general was in charge—and Pervez Musharraf was more than happy to play the clientelistic Great Game once more. In tribute to Pakistan’s status as the ‘frontline’ country par excellence in the fight against America’s new enemy, Islamism, Bush delivered 12 billion dollars in aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan, three-quarters of which was ‘security related.’ The Pakistani army got a billion dollars annually for seven years.

Christophe Jafferlot  is a Contributing Editor at The Caravan. He has authored several books including The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics and Sangh Parivar.

Keywords: Pakistan Christophe Jaffrelot Obama America Washington White House Zardari
COMMENT