It is exceedingly important to understand the real importance of Pakistan for the Americans who are currently preparing to pack up and leave Afghanistan. Pakistan has historically been a great asset to the US, and today, it requires more assistance from us. The US has to rely on Pakistan to bring some semblance of balance of power in the region as well as to contain the influence, or for that matter, advancement, of Taliban in Afghanistan. The role of Pakistan army in particular would be vital in this regard. One should also look at the release of military aid by Washington to Islamabad in this context.

A weak or tottering Pakistan cannot play a balancing role in Afghanistan once the US forces are out. Closely interlinked to this point are the US concerns about the safety and security of nuclear arsenals of Pakistan. The very existence of them in fact bounds the US to follow a policy of engagement, rather than brinkmanship towards Pakistan. US administration strongly believes that Pakistan possesses enough number of nuclear war heads which can fall into the hands of anti-US elements in case of any chaos or disintegration of the country.

Though the US has a contingency plan, as disclosed by president Obama some time back, to deal with such an eventuality, it is fully cognizant of the fact that unnecessary arm twisting would only confound the situation further. Such tactics can also help some elements in Pakistan to retake the centre stage who believe in the export of nuclear technology for economic security of the country, besides keeping the US engaged at multiple fronts. 

Contrary to general perception, the US has historically played a crucial role in building up Pakistan to restrict India from out growing its size and strength. It was the US intervention, as is also confirmed from declassified telephonic conversation between then US president Nixon and his foreign secretary Henry Kissinger, which stopped India from over running present day Pakistan after creating Bangladesh in 1971.

Due to its rivalry with Pakistan, India remains vulnerable to the US pressure in one way or the other. Furthermore, unfriendly relations with Pakistan have been amongst the key reasons behind the Indian purchase of the US military equipment worth 8bn in the last four years. The US would like Pakistan to be strong enough to ensure that India becomes perhaps the biggest importer of its arms in coming years. Pakistan today enjoys a great maneuvering space to deal with the US on an honorable basis. Despite raining drones and missiles on the tribal areas of Pakistan, the US would remain hamstrung in Afghanistan unless it takes the its front line ally on board.

SABUR ALI SAYYID,

Lahore, December 5.