CERI-Sciences Po and GMF Join Forces for U.S.-Pakistan Relations Seminar
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, discussed Professor Christophe Jaffrelot’s latest work on US-Pakistan relations (“La relation Pakistan - Etats-Unis: un patron et son client au bord de la rupture?”) at the CERI presentation on Thursday October 11th.
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer gave expertise commentary about U.S. foreign policy and participated in an enriching debate about the future of the United States involvement in the Af-Pak region. The discussion was moderated by CERI director Christian Lequesnes.
Professor Jaffrelot presented a comprehensive history of U.S.-Pakistan relations since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and analyzed the current nature of a collaboration mainly defined as a ‘political machine’. Pr. Jaffrelot examined the way this relationship evolved according to the changing regional context – Pakistan being a ‘front line state’ in the war against USSR and later on in the war on terror – as well as to the personalities of the political leaders of the two nations – as the US-Pakistan relationship has always been articulated around political couples, from A.Khan/ Eisenhower to Zia/Regan and Bush/Musharraf – and to an ‘Indian factor’ that continues to deeply influence Pakistan’s security agenda. He provided a detailed review of the recent deterioration of this relationship showing that the collaboration could not be modeled after the experience of the 1980s for Pakistan and the United States no longer share a common enemy (whereas they had common objectives against the Soviet Union, this is not the case with the Taliban), and the United States has been increasingly engaging with India.
Professor Jaffrelot also highlighted the influence of the Pakistani military establishment upon the evolution of the US-Pakistan relations, being in fact the ruling power in Pakistan. If the Obama administration tried at first to build a new collaboration relying on economic development and the affirmation of the Pakistani civil society, it quickly returned to an essentially military focus, basing once again the relationship on security deals.
Last but not least, he addressed the question of the future of the US-Pakistan interaction: both countries seem willing to rethink this relationship, but few options exist that could provide a credible alternative.
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer focused on the construction of the Af-Pak strategy in the US foreign policy. She highlighted several key points, among which the strong militarization of the American strategy, embodied by the lead roles taken by Michael Mullen and James L. Jones in 2009, and the failure of President Obama’s “gamble” that strategic priorities and perceptions would eventually converge between the two countries. She also brought attention to the evolution in the language used by American policy-makers: whereas future vice-vresident Joe Biden declared in 2007 that the US needs to engage in a nation-building policy in Central Asia, the term was totally abandoned a few years later.
Regarding future engagement of the United States in the region, Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer sees a certain continuation of the “unstable stability” of this relationship. Financially dependent on the United States, Pakistan has no choice but to continue to rely on Washington; on the other hand, Americans cannot afford to let Pakistan – with its strategic localization and its nuclear arsenal – drift away from its sphere of influence, and will undoubtedly remain present in the region even after 2014.
The debate enabled the discussants to address diverse issues such as the strategic importance of Baluchistan, Pakistan’s perception of the American use of drones on its territory, the divergences between the two presidential candidates’ vision of the Af-Pak issue, and Pakistan’s position on nuclear Iran.
On the latter issue, Professor Jaffrelot underlined that one of the rare convergences of opinion between India and Pakistan concerns their respective intention to not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear capacity. He also stated that the Pakistani military establishment considers the use of drones negatively, solely when the targets could serve their own agenda (thus distinguishing the ‘good’ Jihadists from the ‘bad’ ones). Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer pointed out that Mitt Romney has recruited many of Bush's advisors, and embraces a rather ‘neoconservative’ position in foreign policy. He already announced that he would reconsider the US-Pakistan relations by adding more conditions to American financial aid.
The seminar was attended by French policy advisors from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and experts of Pakistan, Central Asia and U.S. foreign policy.