Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Recent (9/2011) trade deals between Iran and Pakistan that could have bilateral trade amounting to $10 billion annually at some point in the future appears as a thawing of relations between two countries that have not had the best relationship since the Iranian Revolution. That Pakistan needs energy, especially natural gas that can come from the proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-India-Pakistan pipeline suggests that the US is indeed an obstacle to the economic progress of Pakistan, because as long as war is taking place the latter pipeline cannot be operational. To compensate for Pakistan's energy needs and steer it away from Iran, the US has pledged to help Pakistan with wing and solar energy development, but that too is long-term, and it does not address the high unemployment and low living standards that contribute to Islamic fundamentalism.  

What we do with certainty is that as long as Pakistan is involved in America's war with Afghanistan, Pakistan cannot move forward with much needed economic development.  Without the benefit of classified documents, I cannot state with certainty that Pakistan invited the US on its soil as a launching base against the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has had a long-standing relationship with the US, from the Baghdad Pact (1955-1979), to a special military deal when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, to supporting the Taliban that Iran and Russia opposed, to caving under pressure after 9/11 when the US decided to bring down the Taliban regime and hunt down al-Qaeda.

The evidence that does exist indicates that Pakistan had no choice other than inviting the US on its soil or facing bombing. Pakistan does receive at least $10 billion in total US aid in the past ten years, but the cost in political terms as well as economic is hardly worth the foreign aid; at least this is how many analysts see it from Pakistan's perspective rather than that of NATO allies. Without classified documents to tell us what goes on in secret negotiations, without intelligence reports to tell us what Pakistani intelligence has been doing in supporting or undercutting the Pakistan-US alliance, I must conclude that Pakistan as the weaker country under US-NATO military occupation, is at a distinct disadvantage at the very least, and a temporary semi-colony at worst. If a percentage of Pakistanis see the issue from this perspective, then we in the West must at least consider if not respect their view and not insist on a Euro-American-centric perspective to the exclusion of all other.

Two WAISers have now raised the nuclear issue as though it is an option for Pakistan to use nuclear weapons against any country. Nuclear weapons are leverage and nothing more. Those who have studied the history of nuclear weapons and how the 'nuclear club' has used them as leverage, know that this is a weapon for storage only. There are extreme, very extreme scenarios, such as something going seriously wrong in Kashmir that would force Pakistan or India to resort to 'first use', but I try to stay on the optimistic side of this argument. 

Furthermore, at present there is no prospect of an Iran-Pakistan nuclear axis, but even if there were down the road, it would still mean nothing more than diplomatic/geopolitical leverage that can easily be countered by India, Russia, China and of course Israel and the US, not to mention France and UK. Finally, given that Iran wants to be the major regional power, given that Pakistan-Iran relations were rather hostile in the last three decades, especially in the 1990s, Iran would only consider a Pakistani alliance as a last resort. This also because of its relationship with India that has been supportive of Iran's nuclear program. 

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