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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Pakistan: A Client state or a Pivot state?

A client state is dependent on another state for its political, economic and military wellbeing while a pivot state is able to play a critical role in world affairs by virtue of possessing  military, economic or ideational strategic assets that are coveted by great powers.

From its time of inception till today the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been defined, described and depicted by using various terms; an ideological state because of the political reinterpretation of Islam by its founding fathers including Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a garrison state because of the key role played by military in different political and economic affairs of the country, a terror state because of the rise of radical Islamic movements in the midway.

However, its trajectory with respect to its ability to navigate at the interface of domestic and external dynamics can not be elaborated well without considering two additional terms; client state and pivotal state.

A client state is dependent on another state for its political, economic and military wellbeing while a pivot state is able to play a critical role in world affairs by virtue of possessing  military, economic or ideational strategic assets that are coveted by great powers. Pakistan has a long history of maintaining such a relationship with United States in exchange for civil and military aid.

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Hostile neighborhood: India and Afghanistan

India’s hostile craving for Akhund Bahart reinforced with Afghanistan’s support for irredentist idea of Pakhtoonistan gave rise to the feeling of vulnerability and insecurity for Pakistan thereby posing an existential threat to its existence. Afghanistan refused to recognise Durand Line as an international border and it was the only country in the United Nations that opposed the entry of Pakistan.

As late as 1963, an editorial of Dawn newspaper, emphasized that “If the main concern of the Christian West is the containment of Chinese Communism, the main concern of Muslim Pakistan is the containment of militarist and militant Hinduism.” In Afghanistan’s case, like the Pakhtun nationalist Bacha Khan had supported the congress against the British before partition, the Kabul government was close to India after the partition. The hostile relations with the two neighboring states influenced the nature of Pakistan’s policies and therefore it’s direction.

US Support: Client-Patron relationship

The newly formed nation subjected to encirclement and lacking the capacities of a functioning state turned to United States for help. USA recognised Pakistan as one of its regional allies for countering and containing communism in Asia. Pakistan joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) in 1954 and the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) 1955 in exchange for getting an access to sophisticated Arms and substantial financial aid. The amicable relationship came to climax during the Soviet-Afghan war when US provided billions of dollars to Pakistan to support the Mujahideen.

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The post 9/11 war on terror resulted in even more arms and money. According to an estimate, Pakistan received $30 billion between the year 2002 to 2015,  as a partner of US in its war against Al Qaeda. Half of this amount was security related and was the one-fifth of the regular military budget of Pakistan.

Conclusion

A client-patron relationship is  often unstable as it is built on mutual interests rather than cultural or religious affinities. It therefore is subject to constant renegotiations. More than six decade long relations between Pakistan and US can be best characterized as security-related form of clientelism; a relationship of dependence based on reciprocal exchange of favours between the client and the patron.

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The asymmetric nature of dependence gives patron a clear advantage. It gets things done by the client. The client pays allegiance to the patron in exchange for benefits. In the contemporary time, the lack of US interest in Afghanistan and continuously augmenting focus on economic and strategic rivalry with China and it’s rapprochement with India has transformed the regional equation. Pakistan seems to have been trying to change its approach toward USA i.e. revising the terms of mutual relationship. The sooner it is done the better it is for Pakistan.