Look ma, I’m flying like a bird!

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Soon after the partition of British India on 14August 1947, Pakistan was preoccupied with one concern: survival There was an impression on the part of the first generation of Pakistani leaders that India, which had also gained independence at the same time, was determined to undo the partition that had resulted in the creation of two states out of British India, a predominantly Hindu state of India, and a Muslim Pakistan Some of the early actions by New Delhi reinforced this impression In 1947, India held back the release of the “Sterling balances,” the debt owed by London to British India for helping to finance Great Britain’s war effort It took intervention by Mahatma Gandhi for India to release a part of the owed amount to Pakistan In 1949, India declared a trade war on Pakistan The basis for this was the refusal on the part of the Pakistani government to follow India and devalue its currency with respect to the US dollar With the remarks that India would not exchange 144 of its Rupees for 100 Rupees of Pakistan, all trade came to a halt between the two countries

This would have crippled Pakistan had the country not taken urgent steps to develop its domestic industry At that time, one half of Pakistan’s exports and imports were directed to or obtained from India In 1950, Pakistan became concerned with the Indian plan to divert the waters of the Indus River System for its own use Pakistan threatened war if India persisted with these plans And all along, the dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir continued to sour the relations between the two countries Accordingly, for more than half a century, Pakistan’s foreign policy was directed at the perceived threat from India This focus on India’s intentions, real or perceived, led Pakistan to first develop close relations with the United States and then to align itself with ChinaIn 1954, General Muhammad Ayub Khan, who was then the commanding chief of the Pakistani Army, concluded the Mutual Defense Agreement with the United States The two countries concluded the agreement for different reasons Pakistan was anxious to build up its defense capability The only way it could acquire the weaponry it needed was to seek aid from the United States

The United States was interested in including Pakistan as a part of a system of buffer states it was amassing surrounding the Communist world Following the Mutual Defense Agreement, Pakistan also became a member of two multi-country alliances led by the United States The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) brought Pakistan into a defense relationship with the United States, Britain, Turkey, Iraq, and several other European and Middle Eastern countries The South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) linked Pakistan with the countries in that part of the world as well as with the United StatesWhile the Pakistani military was becoming engaged in a series of defense pacts, there were powerful political voices in the country that urged Pakistan to distance itself from the United States and to work more closely with the countries in the region, in particular China Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a prominent member of the cabinet of President Muhammad Ayub Khan, was the most articulate voice representing this point of view Accordingly, in the early 1960s, Pakistan began to reach out to Beijing, an initiative that proved to be very timely In 1965, following a brief but sharp war between India and Pakistan, there was a break in Pakistan’s relations with the United States The United States stopped all military assistance to Pakistan Consequently, Pakistan was forced into the welcoming arms of the Chinese Relations with China continued to develop, and today, 40 years later, Pakistan counts Beijing as one of its closest allies

Concern over India also dictated Pakistan’s approach toward Afghanistan, its neighbor to the north Military strategists in the country were anxious to create depth in defending the homeland The belief was that Pakistan needed space in order to cushion the impact of a possible Indian attack on the country This belief was to lead to the support that was provided first to the mujahideen in their campaign against the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989, and later to the Taliban regime in the country Perceived as well as a real threats from India meant that the latter remained the motivating force behind much of Pakistan’s foreign policy up until 2004 While this was the case, there was, at the same time, a romantic notion that Pakistan, working with other countries of the Muslim world, could create an Islamic Ummah-an Islamic community of nations This belief led to the formulation of close relations with a number of Muslim countries, in particular, Saudi Arabia, as well as the smaller countries of the Persian Gulf These relations were strengthened following the increases in oil prices in the 1970s, which brought a great deal of wealth to a number of Arab nations Since these countries embarked upon programs for the development of infrastructure and housing, they turned to Pakistan and other populous Muslim nations for the supply of labor This created one of the three diasporas of Pakistanis around the world The other two diasporas-in Britain and North America-also developed and began to influence Pakistan’s policies with respect to the countries beyond its immediate neighborhood

Following the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 on the United States, Pakistan was forced by Washington to decide whether it wished to continue its support of the Taliban in Afghanistan or would work closely with the United States in destroying the centers from which terrorists were operating against American and other Western assets and interests General Pervez Musharraf decided to side with the Americans and brought about a total reorientation of his country’s foreign policy Pakistan once again became closely aligned with the United States The 9-11 attack had other consequences for Pakistan’s foreign policies India’s rapid economic growth in the 1990s, along with Washington’s desire to work with a large Asian nation that could be of assistance both in both working with China as well as with forces representing radical Islam, led to the reorienting of Washington’s policy toward Delhi This was another reason why Pakistan had to rethink its approach toward India. It also became apparent to Islamabad that the continued animosity with India had been a costly enterprise. Starting with the Islamabad Declaration signed by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India, a new phase of the relationship between the two South Asian countries was initiated. Pakistan began to slowly reorient its vision of the world, which was no longer India-centered. In 2005, Pakistan’s foreign minister met with his Israeli counterpart in Istanbul, and a couple of weeks later President Musharraf addressed a gathering of important American Jewish and business leaders in New York. These initiatives constituted a dramatic shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy. While President Musharraf and his government continued to insist that the developing rapprochement with Israel was a part of the campaign to help the Palestinians achieve some kind of accommodation with the Jewish state, it was quite clear that the real motivation for Islamabad was the desire to base its foreign policy on its own strategic interests.

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