Javid Husain A distinctive feature of the Pakistan-US relations is the admiration with which the people of Pakistan in general view American achievements in economic, political and social fields, as well as the severe criticism to which they subject the US for its policies which are perceived to be contrary to Pakistans interests or the interests of the Muslim world at large. This love-hate relationship is not unusual between a superpower and a client state for that is what Pakistan has turned itself into for the last half a century since it joined the western camp in 1950s during the Cold War. A superpower, which has worldwide interests, must formulate policies affecting global politics and various regions of the world to safeguard those interests. It is inevitable that these policies at times will come in conflict with the views and even the interests of the client states which would have a more limited and in some cases a different outlook on world affairs. The resultant tension in the policies of the superpower and the client states creates strains in their relations which need to be managed carefully and with maturity, so that the bilateral relationship becomes mutually beneficial. This tension is at the heart of the love-hate relationship between the US and Pakistan. Generally speaking, the people of Pakistan have a high opinion of the progress that the US has achieved in various fields. Pakistanis are particularly impressed by the high level of economic development of this country, which with a GDP amounting to about $15 trillion towers over the rest of the world. Equally admirable is the US edge over other countries in the quality of its universities and its lead over others in science and technology. The dream of most educated Pakistanis, including interestingly those who criticise Washington the most, is to send their children for higher education to the US. It is not without reason that a large number of Pakistanis have emigrated to the US in search of jobs, economic opportunity and higher studies. It is also true, however, that the Pakistanis according to most public opinion surveys are among the harshest critics of the US. This is either because many of them view the US as an unreliable friend due to Pakistans past experience or because they think that the US policies militate against the interests of Pakistan or the Muslim world. Pakistanis have not forgotten how the US, despite its alliance with Pakistan, effectively sided with India during the 1965 Indo-Pak war by imposing an arms embargo against Pakistan. Similarly, the memory of the US economic and military sanctions against Pakistan, following the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, is still fresh in their minds. The Kerry-Lugar Bill enacted last year does help to some extent in overcoming Pakistanis mistrust by giving assurances of a long-term US commitment to provide development assistance to Pakistan at the rate of $1.5 billion per annum on an unconditional basis. However, despite the assurances contained in the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the Pakistan-US partnership in the struggle against international terrorism, the relationship between the two countries remains fragile with uncertain prospects. The US views Pakistan both as an asset and a problem in the fight against international terrorism as should be obvious from the continuous US demand on us to do more to defeat Al-Qaeda and help it in pacifying Afghanistan by fighting the Taliban. Pakistans willingness to fight the supporters of the Afghan Taliban on its territory under the US pressure has definitely lightened the burden of fighting on the coalition forces in Afghanistan. But in the process, the Taliban fury has been partly diverted towards Pakistan which has been destabilised through terrorist attacks and which consequently has paid a heavy price in political, security and economic terms for its willingness to oblige the US. Thus, there is a clear divergence between the current US policy in Afghanistan and the requirements of Pakistans security, political stability and economic progress. While the retrogressive interpretation of Islam espoused by the Taliban in Afghanistan needs to be condemned, it is a moot point whether Pakistan should help the US in fighting them or in imposing a government of its own choice on the people of Afghanistan. Ideally, the people of Afghanistan should be helped in establishing a broad-based government on the basis of national reconciliation among the various political forces in the country in accordance with its historical and cultural traditions and without any foreign interference. This requires opening lines of communications with the Taliban in Afghanistan rather than fighting them. Afghanistan is not the only place where Washingtons policies run contrary to Pakistans interests. The US does not consider Pakistan as a part of its grand strategic design for Asia which aims at building up India as a counterweight to the rapidly growing power of China. On the other hand, Pakistan harbours deep suspicions about India because of its hegemonic ambitions in South Asia, the Kashmir dispute, its invasion of East Pakistan in 1971 and the occupation of Siachin in 1980s. Further, Pakistan, which has a vital strategic relationship with China, neither has the capability nor the desire to counter Chinas growing power. The real aim of the US policy of de-hyphenation of its relations with India and Pakistan, initiated by the Bush administration and continued by the US under Obama, is to accord a higher priority to its relations with India than to those with Pakistan. As for the US policies towards the Muslim world, Washington has continued the imperialist policies of the UK and France in the Middle East at the expense of the Muslim countries of the region since the end of World War II. Its real strategic goal has been to maintain its iron grip on the huge oil and gas resources of the Persian Gulf region and to strengthen Israel as an outpost of the West in the Middle East. The unquestioned support that it has extended to Israel as against the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people has alienated the Muslims all over the world including those in Pakistan. Pakistan needs to manage its relations with the US in a mature and responsible fashion based on a careful calculation of its national interests, rather than being swayed by emotions. It is important for us to maintain and even strengthen our friendship with the US in view of its dominant position globally in political, security and economic fields. However, this must be accomplished in a manner which promotes our vital national interests. The test of Pakistans diplomacy lies in maximising the benefits of our friendship and cooperation with the US in various fields, while minimising the negative fallout in those areas where the interests and policies of the two countries diverge. It remains to be seen whether our leadership will be able to pass this test in the future. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com