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The relationship between the US and Pakistan has always been defined by the shifts in international system in terms of major events. Pakistan has always been dependent on the United States for economic, military, and technological support due to its strategic arms race with India, which is a regional power in South Asia. The United States, on the other hand, was interested in keeping security relationship with Pakistan in order to reduce the influence of the Soviet Union in the region. India has historically been closer ally of the Soviet due to the socialist leaning of its ruling party; The Congress. It had always resisted strategic relationship with Washington, which had provided an opportunity to Islamabad to get maximum benefit from the United States’ policy of containment in South Asia. Islamabad became the frontline ally of the US in its policy of containment during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Afghan crisis period during the Cold War was the only phase when the bilateral relationship had reached the level of strategic one. The United States had given significant military and economic assistance to Pakistan and Islamabad had also immensely assisted the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet Union. This strategic relationship did not continue after the Afghan war and was followed by a period of negligence, economic and military sanctions and political indifference.
This paper specifically discusses the trend in the bilateral relationship since the beginning and identifies the major factors that have kept the relationship roller coaster. This paper contains seven sections by discussing the nature of relationship in different decades since its establishment in 1947. The first phase was the period establishing the relationship, which was aimed at the containment of Soviet influence in the region. The second decade was defined by the emergence of political differences and direction of the two countries on major issues. The third decade is considered the period of miscommunication and disappointments. The fourth was reached the desired level when their strategic interests aligned in Afghanistan. It again was followed by the period of sanctions and indifferences because of the emergence of New World Order, when the United States decided to focus on non-traditional issues like terrorism, nuclear proliferation, human rights and democracy. The final phase was the period after the event of 9/11, when Pakistan was faced with the option of either with us or against us. The primary factor in the bilateral relationship was the nature of international system, which kept influencing the bilateral relationship. It shows that they are transactional partners, which is highly dependent upon the nature of international system, not strategic one, which is above the influence of changes in the system.
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