America’s Interests in South Asia

  “South Asia is most dangerous place” on the earth, said by President Clinton when he was going to visit South Asia in 2000. This statement shows that how much America keen about the region. Before World War II America was not very much involve in this region but after the war US’s primary objective was to develop relations with the states of South Asia who came in to being all of a sudden after the end of World War II.  After 1945 US realize that there lies world’s 40 percent population which may go to communist block. By looking this, US started to develop ties with South Asian states. The region has always been an area where great powers used to play games at large (A.Z Hilali, 2010). We can say that the South Asian states are players between world powers to, especially between US and Russia and China.

In 1950s Pakistan’s number was second in receiving aid and then the rest of the states. Military aid to Pakistan was in the shape of two agreements known as SEATO and SENTO in 1954 and 1955 respectively, although these agreements never came in to practice as for as it was the case for Pakistan. Later on US do facilitate and assist Pakistan by giving weapons and ammunition especially during the soviet’s invasion in Afghanistan. And with the incident of 9/11, US aid to Pakistan in almost every sphere increased dramatically as Pakistan had become the major ally for US in the region as it was in 1979. Another important state of the region is India which has become very vital for US now days. US throughout the history has assisted more than of Pakistan justifying it with the statements that India is much larger than of Pakistan so there is no comparison of aid or assistance. While growing Indian economy and power is also in favor of US as she wants a state in the region which can counter the Chinese influence from further growing in Afghanistan. Pakistan as a front line state in so called “war against terrorism” and India as a state of having capacity of becoming regional power has made this region very important for Washington. South Asia today is one of the world’s greatest laborites of political, economics and social changes and challenges. To meet these challenges US had many purposes. Main purpose of US foreign policy towards South Asia is to achieve its global strategic and political goals. US’s goal in the region are not shaped or concerned with the states at large but they concerned with the usage of these states against China and Russia. For this purpose US gave started to give economic aid to South Asian states as it is the “instrument” of US foreign policy (Charles Wolf, 1964). Before 1945, US interests in the region were very limited and perhaps only were linked to commercial. The American Tobacco Company was making trade with South Asia and many American students of history and education came to South Asia for research in the region which was full of religious and cultural heritage. These were the pre war connections. After World War II most of the states of the Asia, Africa and Europe were weak in military and economics and UK was also no more able to lead the world, so it was American’s turn to lead the world and to maintain balance of power in the world. So US left its traditional policy of “isolationism” and joined world affairs effectively. Main ambition of US was to prevent the area from Soviet communism. Fro this it looked for close cooperation and friends in South Asia too because of its vital position and large number of world’s population.

Primarily US policy should be based on these six principles in South Asia which were made by the policy makers; Firstly always be considered in the light of American national interests in their worldwide extent, secondly recognize the present American heavy involvement and great stake in the future to the countries and people of the area, thirdly develop an integrated approach that gives due attention to the impact of specific actions and of long-term policies on the balance of forces there, fourthly pay special attention to the internal dynamics of the political and social systems, fifthly be based on independent appraisal to avoid any impression of simply endorsing the positions of other countries in the area and outside and sixthly avoid any pressure to “choose” Pakistan and India (Charles Wolf, 1964).

Pakistan as being the second largest state of the region has always remained an “open” country for US throughout the history, because of its geographical location and especially being as an adjacent state to Afghanistan. Several times Pakistan has been remained an important country for US in the region. After getting independence Pakistan was looking for an international partner which can assure Pakistan’s sovereignty and to prevent any aggression from India. Pakistan’s purpose was not to contain communism but to ensure its defense and independence by joining world power. This lead to Pakistan’s shift towards US block. Both signed Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement in 1954, followed by SEATO and CENTO in 1954 and 1955 (Phillips Talbot and S.L. Polpai, 1958). There were also feelings in America that by giving military assistance to Pakistan, we can win the trust of Pakistan. Some events which made Pakistan a close country to US because it was Pakistan who paved the way to US to go to make diplomatic relations with China even during Cold War in 1971. Pakistan set the foundations for both sides especially for US to negotiate their disputes. In 1979, when Soviets invaded in Afghanistan, US became fearful of Soviet communist expansionism. So it asked for Pakistan to help in this regard and Pakistan did it. US provided weapons, money, ammunition, technology and experts to Pakistan to counter Soviets. It was a long war which was fought jointly by Pakistan and Afghan Mujhadins from 1979 to 1989. Attacks of 9/11 on US made once again Pakistan as a close ally of US, as US was going to start war against Afghanistan. Pakistan was the neighboring state, so it got real importance at the scene. US demanded Air basis, intelligence sharing and logistic support from Pakistan which was fulfilled. As a result US declared Pakistan as “major non-NATO Ally”, on June 2004, with the statement that “this status would further enhance relations in defense and cooperation between the two sides”. Because of its proximity to Afghanistan and formerly close to Taliban and being an Islamic country possessing nuclear capability, Pakistan was considered to be very crucial to root out terrorism in the region with the collaboration of US.

Later in 1960s and 1970s the US was not very much in the affairs of South Asia. It adopted the policy of neutrality during the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971 which hurt Pakistan more than of India. These two decades were a matter for Pakistani leaders to think seriously about changing US behavior towards Pakistan. This US attitude will not facilitate Pakistan in any future war so Pakistan should not be dependent only on US. But during the Russian invasion in Afghanistan in 1979 was another turn in the Pak-US relations, as US was looking for the containment of communism in the region, Pakistan became most important to US and became a front line state in the Afghan Jihad against Soviets.

At the moment condition for US in Pakistan is not good because of the growing terrorism in Pakistan; public opinion is rapidly turning against US. This is a real threat to Washington as well as to the government of Pakistan, because it would lead to the change in the government set up and the next government may have anti-American ideas. In order to be there and to normalize public, US organized “Strategic Dialogue” with Pakistan, whose first round held in Washington on 24-25 March 2010 and second would be held in Islamabad in July. During these dialogues Pakistan and US made several agreements on trade, communication, technology, weapons, education, human development, energy, defense, terrorism, security (Anees ur Rehman, 2010). Agriculture and many other fields. Some consider these dialogues as the most important talks between the both sides ever in history. But even these dialogues, US leadership is still saying that Pakistan is not very much serious in taking actions against militants which are having there safe heaven in northern areas of Pakistan and on Pak-Afghan border. US have put pressure on Pakistan to take actions against these militants and asked for “do more”. Although sometimes, President Obama has praised the action of Pakistan armed forces in FATA and Swat.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of newly developing states were a great threat to US and international peace, so being the superpower US took initiative towards Pakistan and India on two concerns. First that there would be no deployment of nuclear weapons and second was that US got assurance from both sides that they would not go into serious and sensitive nuclear war. Furthermore US also made plea of the no more experiment or development of ballistic missiles. US leadership’s policies have done well in the region either they are in the shape of embargo, sanctions or cut down in economic aid. However major issues such as Kashmir are still to be solved where India is showing no relaxation. The need is to bring India on negotiation in this matter too and US can do it. Another way of the salvation of Kashmir issue is the mediation of US but at the moment US is not ready as well as India is continuously saying that it is bilateral issue and we would not accept any third party’s involvement in the matter.


Posted on August 19, 2011, in US Policy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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