US-Pakistan Ties: A Troubled Foreign Policy Relationship

On Tuesday, November 19, the Center for the Study of Asia, in cooperation with the Center for International Relations, welcomed Aparna Pande back to campus to talk about the increasingly tense state of US-Pakistan relations. Pande, who received her PhD from Boston University in 2009, is a Research Fellow with the Hudson Institute’s Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and several other online newspapers. Her book, Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Escaping India, was published earlier this year by Routledge.

While tensions between the US and Pakistan have been mounting for several months, setting the stage for Pande’s talk, the fragility in the relationship was brought to public attention last month when Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated openly that Pakistani intelligence has played a role in recent attacks in Afghanistan, including the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul.

According to Pande, the troubled relationship between the historical allies is due to differing goals and expectations. The US views its relationship with Pakistan as part of a global strategy, while Pakistan, for its part, sees the US as vital to achieving parity with India.

Before addressing the current downward spiral in US-Pakistan relations, Pande gave an overview of the history of Pakistan’s foreign and security policy, its roots in Pakistan’s “India-centric” political identity, and its impact on Pakistan’s relationship with neighbor Afghanistan, where its interests collide with those of the United States.

After explaining the reasons for the diverging worldviews, Pande addressed questions on a range of topics:  whether the “threat” from India is real or perceived, Pakistan’s recent efforts to court China, civil versus military leadership in Pakistan, as well as popular anti-American sentiment, especially since the capture of Bin Laden.