“Did you read today about what America is doing?” one of the Indian characters in Rohinton Mistry’s “Such a Long Journey” asks. “CIA bastards are up to their usual anus-fingering tactics.” The novel is set in 1971, the year that India intervened in Pakistan’s civil war and helped create a new nation-state—Bangladesh—from the Bengali-speaking province of East Pakistan. Like Mistry’s characters, Indians were confused and incensed by President Richard Nixon’s support for Pakistan’s military rulers and by his hostility toward India. After all, Pakistan had launched a murderous campaign against the Bengalis, leaving India’s impoverished and volatile border states to cope with ultimately some ten million refugees fleeing the carnage. The total number of the dead is unknown, but Bangladesh’s official estimate is three million. (Pakistan’s clearly understated figure is twenty-six thousand.)
When, during the short ensuing war between India and Pakistan, Nixon implicitly threatened India by ordering a nuclear aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise, into the Bay of Bengal, millions of Indian minds went dark with geopolitical paranoia. Nixon and his national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger, became, as Mistry puts it, “names to curse with.” Mistry’s protagonist amplifies a commonplace conjecture: “The CIA plan” involves supporting Pakistan against India, because India’s friendship with the Soviet Union “makes Nixon shit, lying awake in bed and thinking about it. His house is white, but his pyjamas become brown every night.”
Little did such Indians know that their wildest suppositions were indeed being ratified by Nixon, himself a gifted conspiracy theorist, who wholly reciprocated Indian antipathy. The White House tapes, the recordings that Nixon made of his conversations in office, have long been recognized as a marvel of verbal incontinence. But it is still startling to hear Nixon musing that what “the Indians,” then lucklessly hosting millions of refugees, “need—what they really need—is . . . a mass famine.” Kissinger loyally chimes in: “They’re such bastards.”
The explanation for Nixon’s bizarre apportionment of blame lies in a complicated network of regional loyalties. Pakistan was a trusted American ally, to be protected against any threats from India and the Soviet Union, two countries that were on the verge of signing a “friendship treaty.” Nixon and Kissinger tried to persuade China, which they were hoping to befriend, to open up a front against India, its enemy since the Sino-Indian War of 1962. When India moved decisively against the overstretched Pakistani military—the war ended in just two weeks—the Oval Office, like the alleys of Calcutta, became feverish with speculation. The White House tapes contain this extraordinary exchange during the war’s final days:
Kissinger: If the Soviets move against them [the Chinese] and then we don’t do anything, we’ll be finished.
Nixon: So what do we do if the Soviets move against them? Start lobbing nuclear weapons in, is that what you mean?
That’s indeed what Kissinger meant. “That will be the final showdown,” he said. Nixon quickly backed off from “Armageddon,” as he called it, but thinking seriously about this option evidently had its consolations. “At least we’re coming off like men,” Kissinger said. Nixon, too, was pleased to advertise that “the man in the White House” is “tough.” In this Washington bubble, reality had receded. As Hannah Arendt pointed out in her review of the Pentagon Papers, later that year, the assertion of American machismo had weirdly supplanted all strategic and military aims and interests. The U.S. had to behave like the greatest power on earth for no other reason than to convince the world of it.
How did the President of the United States find himself contemplating nuclear assault against the Soviet Union on behalf of Mao Zedong’s China while still embroiled in Vietnam? And why did he choose not to abandon Pakistani allies who were clearly guilty of mass killings? Two absorbing new books—Srinath Raghavan’s “1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh” (Harvard) and Gary Bass’s “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide” (Knopf)—describe, from different perspectives, this strangely neglected episode of the Cold War. Raghavan covers a range of mentalities, choices, and decisions in Islamabad, Moscow, Beijing, Washington, New Delhi, and other capitals. Bass focusses mainly on American actions and inaction. His previous book, “Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention,” has been cited by advocates of a United Nations doctrine, known as Responsibility to Protect, that enjoins the international community to intervene when a state cannot protect its citizens from genocide or war crimes. His heroes are such Americans as Archer Blood, the consul-general in Dhaka, whose office lambasted Washington for supporting a murderous Pakistani regime, in a cable subsequently known as the Blood telegram.
“Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy,” the telegram said. “Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. . . . Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy.” Kenneth Keating, the U.S. Ambassador to India, likewise called on the Nixon Administration to “promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore this brutality.” But Nixon stonewalled Keating, and recalled Archer Blood from Dhaka. He and Kissinger showed contempt for dissenting American voices both within the Administration and in the Democratic opposition and the media. Bass draws up a severe indictment of Nixon and Kissinger, holding them responsible for “significant complicity in the slaughter of the Bengalis.” He writes, “In the dark annals of modern cruelty, it ranks as bloodier than Bosnia and by some accounts in the same rough league as Rwanda.”
This is not how Nixon would have liked to be remembered. By the nineteen-seventies, he had abandoned his reflexive anti-Communism of the forties and fifties. He had come to pride himself on taking a “long view” of things, believing that a balance of power, rather than the standoffs of the Cold War, was the best way to insure international stability. He and Kissinger were pursuing détente with the Soviet Union and laying the groundwork for his spectacular visit to China, in 1972. Nixon also fancied himself, after several tours to the region, to be a “man who knows Asia.” But, as Bass’s book makes clear, neither he nor Kissinger took a deep interest in Pakistan. In 1947, the violent partition of British India had divided the subcontinent into separate homelands for the Hindus (India) and the Muslims (Pakistan). Pakistan was created out of two regions that were separated by more than a thousand miles of Indian territory and that had little in common except religion. West Pakistan’s Punjabi-speaking military-feudal élite looked down on the Bengali-speaking natives of East Pakistan, whom they saw as racially inferior. They treated the province, which contained more than half of Pakistan’s population, as little better than a colony, a source of revenue for West Pakistan and a captive market for its goods.
Nixon preferred Pakistan’s straight-talking Sandhurst-accented military strongmen to India’s elected leaders, especially those—Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for instance—who seemed to be snootily intellectual and were admired by East Coast liberals. As for the Bengalis, Nixon was unable to pronounce or even to recognize the name of their leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, popularly known as Mujib, who had been campaigning for autonomy for East Pakistan. And Nixon was as surprised as everyone else in December, 1970, when Mujib’s party gained a clear majority in Pakistan’s parliamentary election.
The military junta—led by General Yahya Khan, who had assumed power in 1969—was reluctant to accept the election results, and Khan postponed convening Pakistan’s National Assembly. Mujib feared collusion between Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the populist West Pakistani politician whose party Mujib’s had beaten. As Mujib, Yahya Khan, and Bhutto fruitlessly negotiated, Bengali separatist anger began to erupt in mass demonstrations. On March 25, 1971, the Pakistani Army launched a full-scale campaign, known as Operation Searchlight. After arresting Mujib and abducting him to West Pakistan and banning his party, it set about massacring his supporters, with American weapons.
Firing squads spread out across East Pakistan, sometimes assisted by local collaborators from Islamist groups that had been humiliated in the elections. In the countryside, where the armed resistance was strongest, the Pakistani military burned and strafed villages, killing thousands and turning many more into refugees. Hindus, who composed more than ten per cent of the population, were targeted, their un-Muslimness ascertained by a quick inspection underneath their lungis. Tens of thousands of women were raped in a campaign of terror. (Bengalis also murdered and raped Urdu-speaking Muslims whom they suspected of being fifth columnists for West Pakistan.) Archer Blood, among others, reported the slaughter of professors and students at Dhaka University, an attempt to silence the intellectual class who had eloquently articulated Bengali grievances.
At first, Nixon and Kissinger were impressed by the ferocity of Yahya Khan’s crackdown. “The use of power against seeming odds pays off,” Kissinger said. Bass examines in detail how their attitude reflected the important role they had given Pakistan in their plans for China. Yahya Khan was the principal intermediary between Beijing and Washington, personally conveying to Chinese leaders the Americans’ desire for a closer dialogue. In April, 1971, the same month that the Blood telegram’s unwelcome report on Pakistan’s atrocities arrived, Nixon received his eagerly awaited invitation from the Chinese. He excitedly proposed that Kissinger secretly go to China, to prepare the way. He boasted that it was going to be a “great watershed in history, clearly the greatest since WWII”; the reliably boosterish Kissinger ranked it even higher, as “the greatest since the Civil War.” In July, Kissinger, feigning a stomach upset in Pakistan, flew from Islamabad to Beijing, where he began his long infatuation with China’s mighty philosopher-kings, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.
Reporting back to Nixon on Pakistan’s help with the “cloak and dagger exercise,” Kissinger joshed, “Yahya hasn’t had such fun since the last Hindu massacre!” Still, he realized that the Pakistani generals had behaved recklessly in East Pakistan. He saw that India was likely to go to war to resolve its intolerable refugee problem and that it was bound to win. He concurred with Nixon’s description of the Indians, who were secretly training and arming Bengali guerrillas, as “a slippery, treacherous people,” who “would like nothing better than to use this tragedy to destroy Pakistan.” Yahya Khan had to be supported until the great Presidential visit to China was confirmed.
In addition, as Bass writes, “Kissinger now argued that U.S. demonstrations of fealty to Pakistan would play well for the Chinese,” who had distrusted India since their border clashes in 1962. Supporting the insupportable was part of an image-making strategy, a demonstration to the Chinese that, as the Pentagon Papers said, the United States was “willing to keep promises, be tough, take risks, get bloodied and hurt the enemy badly.” And the need to project American credibility and toughness grew: on August 9th, India signed its friendship treaty with the Soviet Union—a “bombshell,” in Kissinger’s panicked appraisal, that could spoil “everything we have done with China.”
Public opinion had also been shifting against West Pakistan. In June, a report by an intrepid Pakistani journalist named Anthony Mascarenhas had appeared in London’s Sunday Times, with the headline “GENOCIDE.” Edward Kennedy returned from a visit to the refugee camps in August, hailing India’s “way of compassion.” That same month, a concert in New York in support of Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, directed the countercultural energies of the nineteen-sixties to a new cause. Nixon, however, put his faith in the proverbial American indifference to foreign affairs: “Biafra stirred up a few Catholics. But you know, I think Biafra stirred people up more than Pakistan, because Pakistan they’re just a bunch of brown goddamn Moslems.”
A visit to Washington in November by Indira Gandhi did not improve Nixon and Kissinger’s chances of postponing war between India and Pakistan until after the summit with Mao Zedong. Bass enumerates the various temptations Kissinger prepared for her: “famine relief, international relief presence, civilian governor, amnesty, unilateral withdrawal.” But she seemed implacable, talking to Nixon with the tone, Kissinger recalled, of “a professor praising a slightly backward student.”
On December 4th, Yahya Khan, fed up with Indian infringements on Pakistan’s territory, declared war. Nixon and Kissinger blamed Indira Gandhi. It “makes your heart sick,” Nixon told Kissinger, for the Pakistanis “to be done so by the Indians, and after we have warned the bitch.” Nixon and Kissinger, desperate not to lose face with the Chinese and the Soviets, responded to Pakistan’s looming defeat with the crazy logic of escalation. Kissinger threatened the Soviet Union and encouraged the Chinese to intervene against India, and, as Nixon put it, “scare those goddamn Indians to death.” Nixon, contemplating Armageddon, dispatched the U.S.S. Enterprise.
The Soviets, the Chinese, and the Indians proved to be more levelheaded than the self-styled exponents of Realpolitik in the Oval Office. The Soviet Union, Srinath Raghavan shows in his book, was no less averse than the United States to the breakup of Pakistan, to which it had sold armaments. Raghavan’s narrative, which contradicts Bass’s at several points, argues that there was nothing inevitable about the dissolution of Pakistan. The creation of Bangladesh was the product of “conjuncture and contingency, choice and chance.” India was initially reluctant to arm Bengali rebels and to engage Pakistan militarily, and it would probably not have signed its friendship treaty with the Soviet Union had it not been for threats from Kissinger. And all that Nixon’s bluffing with the U.S.S. Enterprise achieved was, according to Raghavan, to “spur the Indians to capture Dhaka and seal their victory—objectives that had not been on their strategic horizons when the war began.”
On December 16th, India forced Pakistan into an unconditional surrender in Dhaka. Ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers and civilians became prisoners of war—they remained in India until 1973—and Pakistan lost its most populous province. Defeat shocked many West Pakistanis, who had come to believe that one brave Muslim soldier equalled ten Hindu ones. From then on, shame and humiliation drove Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment to seek “strategic depth” in Afghanistan and a policy of “death by a thousand cuts” in Indian-ruled Kashmir.
Bass describes the devious way that Nixon and Kissinger managed to bury their role in the debacle. Americans have also “absorbed some of Nixon and Kissinger’s contempt for Bangladesh,” he laments. “Faraway, poor, brown—the place is all too easily ignored or mocked.” It is also true that Nixon in 1971 was far more worried about America’s protracted war in Vietnam, which, typically, he wished to end without admitting defeat. He recognized that “peace with honor,” an unfulfilled promise from his 1968 Presidential campaign, was key to his reëlection, in 1972. But neither intensified bombing of North Vietnam nor secret talks with Hanoi were producing the result he desired, and an increasing majority of the American public thought the war a mistake. In June, 1971, the Times began to publish excerpts from the Pentagon Papers; the same month, the Democratic-majority Senate voted for the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam.
These setbacks made Nixon more desperate for successes abroad. As he saw it, resetting relations with Hanoi’s main allies, the Soviet Union and China, could not only insure his place in history; it could also persuade North Vietnam to end the war on terms favorable to the United States. Insofar as the India-Pakistan imbroglio featured in these intricate plans, it was a nuisance, along with the conflicts of many other remote countries, including those in the Middle East.
Nixon had no doubt that publicly taking sides in East Pakistan would be, as he told Kissinger, “a hell of a mistake.” Kissinger, too, while concluding that the U.S. should not condemn the crackdown in East Pakistan, made it privately clear to Yahya Khan that Pakistan couldn’t expect American assistance while the slaughter continued. Such a course of public restraint and private pressure—echoed today in President Obama’s studied refusal to call the Egyptian coup a coup—offered, he felt, “the best chance of conserving our limited ability to influence” events.
Kissinger and Nixon were quick to accept the fait accompli of an independent Bangladesh, and the ensuing ouster of Yahya Khan by Bhutto, whom they detested. And Nixon could cease fretting about South Asia, when, just two months after Pakistan’s defeat, he made his momentous visit to China, then inaugurated détente with the Soviet Union, and, in November, disingenuously claiming to be nearing peace with honor in Vietnam, won a landslide reëlection. As Kissinger told Zhou Enlai, “the future of our relationship with Peking is infinitely more important for the future of Asia than what happens in Phnom Penh, in Hanoi or in Saigon”—or, he could have added, in Dhaka.
Nixon and Kissinger were clearly not burdened with an excessively moralistic view of foreign policy, but many postwar Administrations, Democratic as well as Republican, violated American ideals of democracy and human rights while pursuing what they saw—mostly wrongly—as national interests. In Latin America, for instance, counter-insurgency practices, including the use of death squads, honed by C.I.A.-sponsored forces in Guatemala in 1954 were diffused by pro-American regimes across the region—Brazil in 1964, Chile and Uruguay in 1973, Argentina in 1976, and El Salvador in the late seventies.
Nixon and Kissinger’s pursuit of international credibility through macho posturing was rash. But such forceful efforts to deter potential enemies and influence friends can be dated back, as Arendt wrote, to “the fateful war crime that ended the last world war,” the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The imperative to look tough at all costs, most recently embodied by George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” tactics in Iraq, also weighed ominously on President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis and on President Johnson in Vietnam. (It now weighs on Barack Obama as he contemplates punitive action in Syria.) The decision in 1979 by the human-rights-friendly Carter Administration to give the Soviet Union “its own Vietnam” in Afghanistan with the help of Islamist mujahideen sowed a more extensive geopolitical disorder than what William Bundy called the “unnecessary risk-taking” of Nixon and Kissinger.
At the same time, to focus on the moral capacity or culpability of American leaders can obscure the ruthless gambits of ruling classes in less powerful countries. Mujib, the founding father of Bangladesh, supported Islamists against progressive forces, amnestied Bengali collaborators of Pakistani war criminals, and banned all opposition political parties, before he was assassinated by Bangladeshi Army officers, in 1975. Bangladesh is still struggling to overcome the tormented legacy of his misrule. Two years after the revelations of Watergate, Indira Gandhi exceeded Nixon’s most flagrant illegalities by suspending civil liberties and arresting major opposition leaders. Bhutto, a champion of social justice for the poor, did not deny the necessity of a crackdown in East Pakistan. “I would have done it with more intelligence, more scientifically, less brutally,” he said in an interview. In 1974, he was able to demonstrate his refined approach by unleashing helicopter gunships on secessionists in Pakistan’s western province of Balochistan. West Pakistan’s leaders recognized the rebellious Bengalis as a threat to their military, economic, and political hegemony, and there is not much that the United States could have done to change their perception.
Disappointed by America’s failure to stand up for human rights, Bass sees a more inspiring example in “India’s democratic response to the plight of the Bengalis.” In a footnote, he writes, “This book extends my argument that liberal states can be driven toward humanitarian intervention.” Although many Indians experienced, as Bass writes, “real solidarity with the Bengalis,” Indira Gandhi was driven to war by the politically explosive and economically catastrophic presence of refugees in India, and the fear of unrest in the border areas where she had just crushed a major left-wing insurgency.
In many ways, the region is still dealing with the demons unleashed by the great territorial scission of 1971. India’s successful nuclear tests, three years later, spurred Pakistan’s urgent and costly attempts to achieve parity. The desire for revenge motivated Pakistani soldiers and spies, as they organized anti-Indian militant proxies in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, despite the proliferation of new external and internal enemies, has remained institutionally obsessed with India. India, in turn, has governed Kashmir with the help of security forces and Draconian laws, and has been building a security fence on its border with Bangladesh.
Such an aftermath of the creation of Bangladesh presents a challenge to liberal interventionists who wish to draw guidance for future actions. Force-backed humanitarianism, which relies on rational influence over events in other countries, may have been a more feasible project in the bipolar era of the Cold War, with its relatively defined and stable web of alliances and proxies. Today, a multitude of newly empowered actors make a series of choices—the Muslim Brotherhood President appeasing the military, say, or liberal Egyptians backing a coup—that have wholly unpredictable consequences.
The leader of the lone superpower finds his freedom of action ever more constrained by domestic political dysfunction and the complexities of geopolitical turmoil. Obama was expected to restore an ethical sheen to post-9/11 foreign policy, but he has intensified drone warfare in Yemen and Pakistan, pursued whistle-blowers, and failed to close down Guantánamo. It is difficult to imagine him risking Israel’s security by taking a hard line against the Egyptian generals—especially not while he weighs the appropriate response to Syrian war crimes, copes with the human costs of the Iraq occupation and of the intervention in Libya, seeks peace with honor in Afghanistan, re-starts peace talks between Israel and Palestine, and controls the fallout from Edward Snowden’s revelations. Against this backdrop of permanent crisis, of ineluctable compromises and trade-offs, the moral responsibilities of liberal democracies seem arduous. Resources are meagre, intentions troublingly ambiguous. India’s rulers in 1971, Bass writes, were “driven by an impure mix of humanitarian and strategic motives.” The same contaminated blend also drives those who choose war as a means to end violence. As another such intercession looms, we should be mindful of the aftereffects and the people who are left to cope with them. ♦
Pakistan–United States relations refers to the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the United States. On 20 October 1947, two months and six days after Pakistan's independence, the United States established relations with Pakistan, making it amongst the first nations to establish relations with the new state. Pakistan allied itself with the U.S. during the Cold war era against the Soviet Union, and was an integral player in the CENTO and SEATO organizations.
Pakistan also played a crucial role in arranging the 1972 Nixon visit to China which led to normalization of ties between the two countries. Despite a worsening of relations following the election of the left-orientedPakistan Peoples Party under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, relations quickly improved and deepened during Operation Cyclone in the 1980s, which was directed against Soviet expansion in Central Asia and South Asia, by funding and training Muslim mujahideen in Afghanistan to combat the Soviet Union. Relations once again soured after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the United States approved sanctions against Pakistan by passing the Pressler amendment, which was enacted against Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program, which was initiated after the war with India in 1971 and accelerated after Indiadetonated a nuclear bomb in 1974. Pakistan once again assumed an important role in American geopolitical interests in the region following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent War on Terror. Relations were strengthened as the United States named Pakistan a major non-NATO ally in 2002 - which allowed for the release of over $25 billion of aid to Pakistan. American recovery efforts following the 2005 Kashmir earthquake were widely appreciated by the Pakistani public.
Relations began to strain as both sides began to criticize one another's strategy in the War on Terror, with the United States government frequently accusing Pakistan of harboring members of the Afghan Taliban and Quetta Shura, while Pakistan has alleged that the United States has done little to control security in eastern Afghanistan, where Pakistan's most-wanted terrorist, Mullah Fazlullah is believed to be hiding. Furthermore, as a result of the Raymond Allen Davis incident in Lahore, the secret U.S. operation in Abbottabad which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, followed by the Salala incident, relations between the two countries became increasingly strained in recent years with high levels of mistrust. Public opinion in Pakistan frequently ranks the U.S. one of its least favored countries, and vice versa. In 2015, according to Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, only 15% of Americans had a favorable view of Pakistan.
The United States today engages in extensive economic, social, and scientific assistance as well as vital military relations with Pakistan, while Pakistan continues to occupy a strategic position in the United States' interests in Central and South Asia. The United States is the second-largest supplier of military equipment to Pakistan after China, and is one of Pakistan's largest donors of foreign assistance.
Relations during the Cold War
1947–1958: Relations Between the United States and the Newly-Independent State
Following Pakistan's independence from the British Indian Empire, the nascent state struggled to position itself as a non-aligned member of the international community. Pakistan's pro-communist forces commanded considerable support in East Pakistan, while in West Pakistan, the pro-Soviet Pakistan Socialist Party remained largely marginalized. The capitalist and pro-American Pakistan Muslim League dominated much of West Pakistan's political landscape, particularly in the prosperous region of Punjab, while its base of support in East Pakistan was far more modest.
Prime Minister Ali Khan, however, attempted to establish friendly relations with both the Soviet Union and the United States in hopes that Pakistan could benefit from an alliance with both superpowers. Both the Military of Pakistan and Foreign Service of Pakistan raised doubts as to whether the Soviets had the political will and capacity to provide military, technical, and economic aid to a similar degree that Soviets had begun to offer to Pakistan's socialist neighbor, India. Pakistan nevertheless requested military aid from the USSR, which was predictably rebuffed as the Soviet Union had previously oriented itself to India. The government's overtures to the Soviet Union were not favorably regarded by Pakistan's conservative middle classes, who regarded the USSR as an atheist and socialist ally of India.
In 1950, the United States extended an overture to Pakistan by inviting Prime Minister Khan for an official state visit. As the USSR had rebuffed capitalist Pakistan and aligned itself with Pakistan's rivals, the country's policy crafters found that maintaining friendly relations with both superpowers was impossible. Prime Minister Khan accepted the American invitation and paid an official 23-day state visit to the United States beginning on May 3, 1950. The event was highly politicized in Pakistan, and outraged the country's leftists, and was seen as the seminal event that leads to warm diplomatic ties for several decades. However, it is alleged that during PM Khan’s first visit to the US, president Truman requested Pakistan’s premier to let the CIA formulate a base in Pakistan, strictly to keep an eye on the activities of Soviet Union—a request which was not granted by Khan.
Throughout the period between 1950 and 1953, several major Pakistan political and military figures paid visits to the United States. During this time, Army commanderAyub Khan paid visits to the United States - a figure who would later institute a strongly pro-American military dictatorship. Foreign MinisterSir Zafrullah Khan, Foreign Secretary Ikram-Ullah Khan, Finance MinisterGhulam Muhammad, and Defense SecretarySikander Mirza all paid official state visits to the United States.
Defense ties between the two countries strengthened almost immediately following Khan's visit to the United States. Personal goodwill towards Pakistan was evident even when Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. Under the government of Khawaja Nazimuddin, Pakistani and American officials developed positive attitudes towards one another. Such personal goodwill was evident when Secretary of StateJohn Foster Dulles, while arguing for wheat aid to Pakistan in 1953, told the sub-committee on Agriculture and Forestry during hearings that, "the [p]eople of Pakistan had a splendid military tradition," and that in Karachi he had been met by a guard of honour which was the "finest" he had ever seen". Close ties between the countries were further consolidated by a mutual defense treaty signed in May 1954, after which hundreds of Pakistani military officers began to regularly train in the United States. A U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) was also established in Rawalpindi, then capital of Pakistan. Pakistani officers were not only trained in military tactics, but also taught leadership, management, and economic theory.
In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower requested permission from Pakistan's new Prime Minister, Huseyn Suhravardie, to lease the Peshawar Air Station (PAS), which was to be used in intelligence gathering of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. The request was granted, and soon the United States built an airstrip, command and control station at the site before initiating operations. The base was regarded as top-secret, and even the high-ranking Pakistani public officials such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were refused entry to the facility.
American interest in Pakistan as an ally against the spread of Communism primarily was focused towards maintaining excellent ties with Pakistan's military establishment. Prime Minister Huseyn Suhravardie paid several official visits to the United States - typically with his Army commander, Ayub Khan, at his side. After the military coup d'état in 1958, Ayub Khan argued that left wing activists could seize power in Pakistan, thereby jeopardizing American interests in the region. He successfully convinced American officials that the Pakistani military was the strongest, and most capable institution to govern the country.
1958–1971: Relations During the Military Dictatorships of Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan
Main articles: Peshawar Air Station, 1960 U-2 incident, and Indo-Pakistani war of 1965
During the dictatorship of Ayub Khan, Pakistan enjoyed a close relationship with the United States. Ayub Khan was strongly pro-American, and on a visit the United States in 1954, before Khan was head of state, he famously told American Brigadier-GeneralHenry A. Byroade "I didn’t come here to look at barracks. Our army can be your army if you want us. But let’s make a decision". His view of the United States had remained positive by the time he seized power. In fact, during the 1960s, Pakistan's population was generally pro-American and held a similarly positive view of the United States.
In 1960, Ayub Khan granted permission for the United States to fly its first spy missions to the Soviet Union from the Peshawar Air Base, which had been recently upgraded with American funds. On May 1960, the U-2 incident took place, in which pilot Gary Powers was captured by the USSR. The CIA notified Ayub Khan of the incident while he was in London for a state visit - he reportedly shrugged his shoulders and stated that he had expected such an incident would eventually happen.
In 1961, Khan paid his first visit to the United States as head of state. American goodwill towards Khan was evident by an elaborate state dinner held at Mount Vernon, and a ticker tape parade for Khan in New York City.
American military aide was concentrated in West-Pakistan, with economic benefits were controlled by, and almost exclusively used by, West Pakistan. East Pakistani anger towards an absence of economic development was directed towards the United States, as well as West Pakistan. The East-Pakistan parliament passed a resolution denouncing the 1954 military pact with the United States.
Economic aid to Pakistan was further increased by the United States through the consortium companies. West Pakistan's high rate of economic growth during this time period brought wide regard to Pakistan as a model of successful implementation of capitalism in a developing country - in 1964, GDP growth was 9.38%.
In 1965, Pakistan, under the leadership of Ayub Khan, launched the so-called Operation Gibraltar against India, which escalated to a declaration of war. The war with India had a high economic cost for Pakistan, which lost $500 million in aid from the United States. Economic growth that year was a mere 0.88%. The economy rapidly rebounded with a GDP growth of 2.32% in 1966, and 9.79% in 1969. However, given the huge economic cost of the war without any clear victory (or loss), Khan surrendered his Presidential powers to Army Commander General Yahya Khan (no relation) in 1969.
Despite the loss of a crucial ally, Pakistan, and its new leader, were perceived in the United States as an integral bulwark against Communism, and so Pakistan's close relations with the United States were maintained.
Pakistan's role in U.S.-China relations
President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger took advantage of Pakistan's close relationship with People Republic of China to initiate secret contacts that resulted in Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to China in July 1971 after visiting Pakistan. These contacts resulted in the 1972 Nixon visit to China, and the subsequent normalizing of relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China.
1971: Relations during war
At the onset of hostilities between India and Pakistan, President Nixon urged Yahya Khan to restrain Pakistani forces, in order to prevent escalation of war, and to safeguard Pakistan's interests - Nixon feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan would lead to socialist India's domination of the subcontinent, thereby strengthening the position of the Soviet Union. Yahya Khan feared that an independent Bangladesh would lead to the disintegration of West Pakistan. However, Indian military support for Bengali guerrillas and a massive flood of Bengali refugees into India led to the escalation of hostilities and declared war between India and Pakistan.
The United States secretly encouraged the shipment of military equipment from the Shah's Iran, Turkey, and Jordan to Pakistan, and reimbursed those countries for their shipments, despite Congressional objections. The United States, however, also threatened to cut-off aid to pressure Pakistan to end hostilities, but did not wish for India to dominate the new political landscape in South Asia either.
Near the end of the war, the Nixon Administration recognized Pakistan's imminent defeat, but sent the USS Enterprise, as well as the Task Force-74 of the United States Seventh Fleet into the Indian Ocean - which was regarded as a warning to India to resist escalating attacks against West Pakistan. As it was the height of the Vietnam War, the United States show of force was seen as a sign of support for the beleaguered West Pakistan Armed Forces.
Declassified CIA intelligence documents stated that "India intended to dismember Pakistan and destroy its armed forces, a possible loss of U.S. ally in the Cold war that the United States cannot afford to lose." Nixon termed India a "Soviet stooge" before ordering the Enterprise to lead the Task Force-74. In an assessment completed by the United States, India was seen as being able to summarily defeat Pakistan, were India to receive the full backing of Soviet Union. Nixon sent a strong message to Soviet Union urging Russians to stop India from dismembering and disintegrating the State of Pakistan from existence, in Nixons' words: "In the strongest possible...(...)... terms to restrain India with which … (Soviets) have great influence and for whose actions you must share responsibility... (...)...".
Democratic government (1971-1977)
Main articles: 1977 Pakistani coup d'état, Smiling Buddha, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan and its Nuclear Deterrent Program, Democratic socialism, Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nationalization in Pakistan
See also: Pakistan–Soviet Union relations, Pakistan North Korea relations, and Pakistan-Vietnam relations
As a result of the 1970s election, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic democratic socialist, became President (1971-1974) and later Prime minister in 1974. This period is seen as a "quiet cold war" with the Pakistan who administered under democratic socialists led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. His socialist ideas favored the communist ideas but never actually allied with communism. Under Bhutto, Pakistan would focus on Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, building closer ties with Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Bhutto tried to maintain a balance with the United States, but such attempts were rebuffed by the United States. Bhutto opposed the ultra-leftism concepts but was a strong proponent of left-wing politics, which the U.S. had opposed in Pakistan from the very start.
|“||When differences develop, a small country should not take on a great power head-on, it is wiser for it to duck, detour, side-step and try to enter from the back-door...||”|
|— Zulfi Bhutto, on U.S.-Pakistan relations, |
Although, Richard Nixon enjoyed firmly strong relations with Bhutto and was a close friend of Bhutto, the graph of relation significantly went down under the Presidency of Jimmy Carter. Carter, an anti-socialist, tightened the embargo placed on Pakistan and placed a pressure through the United States Ambassador to Pakistan, Brigadier-GeneralHenry Byroade. The socialist orientation, and Bhutto's proposed left-wing theories, had badly upset the United States, further clinging the bell tolls in the United States as fearing Pakistan's loss as an ally in the Cold war. The leftists and Bhutto's policy towards Soviet Union was seen sympathetic and had built a bridge for the Soviet Union to have gain access in Pakistan's warm water ports, that something both the United States and the Soviet Union had lacked.
During the course of 1976 presidential election, Carter was elected as U.S. President, and his very inaugural speech Carter announced the determination to seek the ban of nuclear weapons. With Carter's election, Bhutto lost all links to United States administration he had through President Nixon. Bhutto had to face the embargo and pressure from the American President who was totally against the political objectives which Bhutto had set forth for his upcoming future plans. Carter indirectly announced his opposition to Bhutto, his ambition and the elections. Responding to President Carter, Bhutto launched a more actively aggressive and serious diplomatic offensive on the United States and the Western world over the nuclear issues. Bhutto's demagogic act on nuclear issues put the United States, particularly Carter who found it extremely difficult to counter Bhutto, on Defensive position at the United Nations. While India and the Soviet Union were pushed aside when Bhutto attacked Indian nuclear programme as labeling latter's program based on the nuclear proliferation. Writing to the world and Western leaders, Bhutto made it clear and maintained to the United States:
Pakistan was exposed to a kind of "nuclear threat and blackmail" unparalleled elsewhere..... (...)... If the world's community failed to provide political insurance to Pakistan and other countries against the nuclear blackmail, these countries would be a constraint to launch atomic bomb programs of their own!... [A]ssurances provided by the United Nations were not "Enough!"...
— Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, statement written in "Eating Grass", source
Although Carter placed an embargo on Pakistan, Bhutto under the technical guidance and diplomatic though Foreign ministerAziz Ahmed, succeeded to bought sensitive equipment, common metal materials, and electronic components, marked as "common items", hide the true nature of the intentions, greatly enhance the atomic bomb project, though a complete failure for Carter's embargo. Bhutto tried to resolve the issue, but Carter intentionally sabotages the talks. In a thesis written by historian Abdul Ghafoor Buhgari, Carter keenly sabotaged Bhutto credibility, but did not wanted to favor his execution as Carter made a call to General Zia-ul-Haq to stop the act. Therefore, senior leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party reached out to different country's ambassadors and high commissioners but did not meet with the U.S. ambassador, as the leadership knew the "noble" part played by Carter and his administration. When Carter administration discovered Bhutto's act, the programme was reached to a well-advanced level, and furthermore, had disastrous effect on SALT I Treaty which was soon collapse, a failure of President Carter to stop the atomic proliferation and arm race between the Soviet Union and the United States heightened.
In 1974, with India carried out the test of nuclear weapons near the Pakistan's eastern border, codename Smiling Buddha, Bhutto sought the United States to impose economic sanctions in India. Though it was unsuccessful approach, in a meeting of Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Kissinger told Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington that the test is “a fait accompli and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it,” although he was aware this is a “little rough” on the Pakistanis. In the 1970s, the ties were further severed with Bhutto as Bhutto had continued to administer the research on weapons, and in 1976, in a meeting with Bhutto and Kissinger, Kissinger had told Bhutto, "that if you [Bhutto] do not cancel, modify or postpone the Reprocessing Plant Agreement, we will make a horrible example from you". The meeting was ended by Bhutto as he had replied: "For my country’s sake, for the sake of people of Pakistan, I did not succumb to that black-mailing and threats". After the meeting, Bhutto intensified his nationalization and industrialization policies, as well as aggressively taking steps to spur scientific research on atomic weapons and the atomic bomb project. Bhutto authorized the construction of Chagai weapon-testing laboratories, whilst the United States opposed the action and predicted that it will lead to a massive and destructive war between India and Pakistan in the future. The atomic bomb project became fully mature in 1978, and a first cold test was conducted in 1983 (see Kirana-I).
Bhutto called upon Organization of Islamic Conference in order to bring Muslim world together but after months, the pro-United States Muslim nations and the United States itself took the promised step and Bhutto was declared as the corrupted one, and, as a result, Bhutto was hanged in 1979.
Military dictatorship (1977–1988)
Main articles: Soviet war in Afghanistan, Operation Cyclone, Foreign aid to Pakistan, Reagan Doctrine, Ronald Reagan, Tim Osman, Grand Mosque Seizure, Islamic terrorism, and United States and state terrorism
In 1979, a group of Pakistani students burned the American embassy in Islamabad to the ground killing two Americans as a reaction to Grand Mosque Seizure, citing the U.S. involvement.
After the removal and death of Bhutto, the Pakistan's ties with the United States were better and improved. On December 24, 1979, the Soviet 40th Army crossed borders, rolling into Afghanistan, President Carter issued his doctrine (see Carter Doctrine). The silent features offers the creation of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF), increasing the deployment of United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), a collective security framework in the region and a commitment to the defence of Pakistan by transfer of significant amount of weapons and Monetarism.
Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, ISI and CIA ran multibillion-dollar worth Operation Cyclone to thwart the communist regime as well as defeating Soviets in Afghanistan. Throughout the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, the ties and relations were promoted at its maximum point, and the United States had given billion dollars of economic and military aid to Pakistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the common interest of Pakistan and the United States in opposing the Soviet Union. In 1981, Pakistan and the United States agreed on a $3.2 billion military and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development needs. With US assistance, in the largest covert operation in history, Pakistan armed and supplied anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan.
In the 1980s, Pakistan agreed to pay $658 million for 28 F-16 fighter jets from the United States; however, the US congress froze the deal, citing objections to Pakistan's nuclear ambitions. Under the terms of the American cancellation, the US kept both the money and the planes, leading to angry claims of theft by Pakistanis.
|“||When Americans lost in Vietnam, Americans went home and cried. When the Soviets got kicked out of Egypt, Soviets decided to go after Libya... Is America still the leader of the free world? In what respect?.... I hope it will soon restore its countervailing role, abandoned after Vietnam||”|
|— Zia on U.S.'s policy on Pakistan., |
Initially, Carter offered Pakistan $325 million in aid over three years; Zia rejected this as "peanuts." Carter also signed the finding in 1980 that allowed less than $50 million a year to go to the Mujahideen. All attempts were rebuffed, Zia shrewdly played his cards knowing that Carter was on his way out and he may get a better deal from the incoming Reagan. After Ronald Reagan came to office, defeating Carter for the US Presidency in 1980, all this changed, due to President Reagan's new priorities and the unlikely and remarkably effective effort by Congressman Charles Wilson (D-TX), aided by Joanne Herring, and CIA Afghan Desk Chief Gust Avrakotos to increase the funding for Operation Cyclone. Aid to the Afghan resistance, and to Pakistan, increased substantially, finally reaching $1 billion. The United States, faced with a rival superpower looking as if it were to create another Communist bloc, now engaged Zia in fighting a US-aided war by proxy in Afghanistan against the Soviets.
The Reagan administration and Reagan himself supported Pakistan's military regime, American officials visited the country on a routine basis. The U.S. political influence in Pakistan effectively curbed down the liberals, socialists, communists, and democracy advocates in the country in 1983, instead advising Zia to hold the non-partisans elections in 1985.General Akhtar Abdur Rahman of ISI and William Casey of CIA worked together in harmony, and in an atmosphere of mutual trust. The ISI officer Mohammad Yusuf stated "“It was a great blow to the Jehad when Casey died", calling Casey "shaheed", a former CIA director is actually a martyr of Islam[clarification needed]. The U.S. intelligence community also helped Zia to expand the idea of The Establishment in the national politics of Pakistan, approving the sale of F-16 Fighting Falcon, nuclear technology, naval warships, intelligence training and efforts.
Relations after the Cold war: 1988-1999
Democratic governments (1988–1998)
Main articles: Pressler amendment, Taliban, Economy of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Indo-Pakistani War of 1999, 1999 Pakistani coup d'état, Pokhran-II, Chagai-II, and Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan
After the restoration of democracy after the disastrous and mysterious death of Zia and U.S. Ambassador in an aviation crash, relations deteriorated quickly with upcoming prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. The United States took a tough stand on Pakistan's nuclear development, passing the Pressler amendment, while significantly improving the relations with India. Both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif also asked the United States to take steps to stop the Indian nuclear program, feeling that United States was not doing enough to address what Pakistan saw as an existential threat. Pakistan found itself in a state of extremely high insecurity as tensions mounted with India and Afghanistan’s infighting continued. Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. was strained due to factors such as its support for the Taliban and public distancing of the Pakistani government from the U.S.
Rift in relations
In 1992 US Ambassador Nicholas Platt advised Pakistan's leaders that if Pakistan continued to support terrorists in India or Indian-administered territory, "the Secretary of State may find himself required by law to place Pakistan on the state sponsors of terrorism list." When the US decided to respond to the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Africa by firing missiles at an al-Qaeda camp in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, five Pakistani ISI agents present at the camp were killed.
In 1989, Benazir Bhutto made a quick visit in the U.S. asking U.S. to stop financing the Afghan mujahideen to President George H. W. Bush, which she marked "America's Frankenstein". This was followed by Nawaz Sharif who visited the U.S. in 1990, but U.S. gave cold shoulder to Pakistan, asking Pakistan to stop developing the nuclear deterrence. In 1990, Prime minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to the U.S. to solve the nuclear crises after the U.S. had tightened its economic embargo on Pakistan, prompting Sharif and then-Treasure MinisterSartaj Aziz to held talks on Washington. It was widely reported in Pakistan that the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Teresita Schaffer had told the Foreign Minister Shahabzada Yaqub Khan to halt the uranium enrichment programme. In December 1990, France's Commissariat à l'énergie atomique agreed to provide a commercial 900MW power plant, but plans did not materialize as France wanted Pakistan to provide entire financial funds for the plant. Furthermore, the U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley further influenced on the project, showing growing concerns of the U.S. on the agreement. While talking to U.S. media, Nawaz Sharif declared that: "Pakistan possessed no [atomic] bomb... Pakistan would be happy to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) but it must be provided "first" to India to do the same". After France's project was cancelled, Nawaz Sharif successfully held talks with the China to build the largest commercial nuclear plant, CHASNUPP-I in Chasma city in Pakistan.
In 1995, Prime minister Benazir Bhutto made a final visit to U.S. urging President Bill Clinton to amend the Pressler Amendment and emphasized the United States to launch a campaign against extremism, with Pakistan allying with the United States. Prime minister Benazir Bhutto was successful in passing the Brown Amendment, but the embargo on arms remained active. During the United States trip, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto faced heated criticism and opposition on the nuclear weapons program, who however responded fiercely and in turn sharply criticized U.S.'s nonproliferation policy and demanded that the United States honor its contractual obligation. Although Benazir was able to convince the U.S. business community to invest in Pakistan, she was unable to revert the economic embargo which kept investment away from the country.
In 1998, Prime minister Nawaz Sharif ordered to conduct first nuclear tests after Benazir Bhutto called for the tests (see Chagai-I and Chagai-II), in response to Indian nuclear tests (see Pokhran-II). Nawaz Sharif's ordering the nuclear tests was met with great hostility and ire in the United States after President Clinton placing the economic embargo on Pakistan. The relations were also refrained and strained after Nawaz Sharif became involved with Kargil war with India, while India's relations with Israel and U.S. greatly enhanced. Soon after the tests, Benazir Bhutto publicly announced her believe that her father was "sent to the gallows at the instance of the superpower for pursuing the nuclear capability, though she did not disclose the name of the power. In 1999, Benazir leaked the information that Nawaz Sharif would be deposed that there is (nothing) that Americans want to support Nawaz Sharif or the democracy in Pakistan. After the military coup was commenced against Nawaz Sharif, the President Clinton criticized the coup demanding the restoration of democracy but did not favor the mass demonstration against the military regime as the coup, at that time, was popular. In conclusion, both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto refused to make compromises with respect to the country's nuclear deterrence, instead building infrastructure despite U.S. objections.
Cold war legacies and trade sanctions
CENTO and SEATO
Pakistan was a leading member of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) from its adoption in 1954-55 and allied itself with the United States during the most of the Cold war. In 1971-72, Pakistan ended its alliance with the United States after the East-Pakistan war in which East Pakistan successfully seceded with the aid of India. The promise of economic aid from the United States was instrumental in creating these agreements. At the time the pact was adopted, Pakistan's relationship with the United States was the friendliest in Asia.
During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the United States refused to provide any military support to as against its pledged. This generated widespread anti-American feelings and emotions in Pakistan that the United States was no longer a reliable ally. According to C. Christine Fair, the U.S. cut off arms supplies because Pakistan "started the war with India by using regular military personnel disguised as mujahideen." According to Fair, in 1971 "the Pakistanis were angry at the U.S. again, for not bailing them out from another war they started against India."
In April 1979, the United States suspended most economic assistance to Pakistan over concerns about Pakistan's atomic bomb project under the Foreign Assistance Act.
Military science programmes
Main article: Pakistan–United States military relations
Pakistan and atomic weapons
In 1955, after Prime minister Huseyn Suhrawardy established nuclear power to ease of the electricity crises, with U.S. offering grant of US$350,000 to acquire a commercial nuclear power plant. Following this year, the PAEC signed an agreement with counterpart, the United States Atomic Energy Commission, where the research on nuclear power and training was started initially by the United States. During the 1960s, the U.S. opens doors to Pakistan's scientists and engineers to conduct research on leading institutions of the U.S., notably ANL, ORNL, and LLNL. In 1965, Abdus Salam went to U.S. and convinced the U.S. government to help establish a national institute of nuclear research in Pakistan (PINSTECH) and a research reactor Parr-I. The PINSTECH building was designed by leading American architect Edward Durrell Stone; American nuclear engineer Peter Karter designed the reactor, which was then supplied by the contractor American Machine and Foundry. Years later, the U.S. helped Pakistan to acquire its first commercial nuclear power plant, Kanupp-I, from GE Canada in 1965. All this nuclear infrastructure was established by the U.S. throughout the 1960s, as part of the CongressionalAtoms for Peace program.
This was changed after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and democratic socialists under him decided to build nuclear weapons for the sake of their national security and survival. In 1974, U.S. imposed embargo and restriction on Pakistan to limit its nuclear weapons program. In the 1980s, the American concerns of Pakistan’s role in nuclear proliferation eventually turned out to be true after the exposure of nuclear programs of Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Although the atomic program was effectively peaceful and devoted for economical usage, the nuclear policy change in the 1970s and till the present, with Pakistan maintaining its program as part of the strategic deterrence.