What could the Pakistan or the Pakistani Prime Minister do to adjust the nature of the relationship between the USA and Pakistan, such that advantages that firm allies like Japan and South Korea receive are received by Pakistan?

Would Pakistan need to abandon its friendship with China or surrender to India's political priorities in the region to achieve this?

To be moved to commentary section:

As far as I understand, Pakistan needs a total overhaul, from civic sentiment to foreign policy, like the one Mustafa Kemal did it Turkey. But, I don't believe that would be sufficient enough to convince the USA to embrace Pakistan as a true ally. Just like USA is preoccupied with Israel in the Middle East, it would be preoccupied with India in this region.

Alternatively, Pakistan can develop its economy (as Japan and South Korea did) so strong that it can market itself as an example in the world theatre.

Either of the options are damn hard to achieve.


Well, let's start with population is is by and large friendly to USA and not actively hostile to it, like majority of people living in Pakistan are and were. Japanese and South Koreans fit, and thus their government doesn't have to choose between being friendly with USA and being thrown out.

Second, be a easily-recognizable democracy (key word being recognizable, being one for real is less important. Witness Al-Sisi's government, that is as close to an ally as USA can have in the Arab world but is being hated on by western liberals because they are somewhat harsh to Islamists threatening it).

Third, don't conduct policies hostile to US interests (support for Taliban and other Islamist groups by ISI; letting Bin Ladin stay there for years; share nuclear information with undesirable-for-USA countries).

Fourth (predicated on the first one), let USA base in-country thus offering USA something of value geopolitically.

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    How would Pakistan know/keep faith that USA will do everything in favour of Pakistan if a military base is there?
    – user4514
    Oct 11 '14 at 8:09
  • @Broy you seem to have missed the other 3 points
    – user4012
    Oct 11 '14 at 12:02
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    @BROY The backstory of Pakistan and the US relations is an interesting one. Basically from the United State's perspective, quid pro quo doesn't include favoring one side over the other on Kasmir. Pakistan's miltary (de facto government) is given aid (money) in return for geopolitical leverage (US force projection through bases). To flip the equation, if Pakistan gave the US money instead of taking it then perhaps Pakistan could buy geopolitical influence to offset cultural dissimilarity. Oct 13 '14 at 7:17
  • @LateralFractal- Good point; BUT backstories are largely irrelevant. Israel went from USSR client state to USA's during cold war. Germany went from Nazis to being pretty much among Israel's closest allies. Egypt went from being Western client state, to USSRs, back to Western, and now swinging the other direction again (somewhat). Let's not even start on Turkey since I'll run out of comment space.
    – user4012
    Oct 13 '14 at 13:23
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    Yes, a lot of diplomatic history is written in sand. When the US asks "What have you done for me lately?" Pakistan replies "Haven't I done enough?" The history that there is no history is the point; the recurring theme in the US-Pakistani relations. No special relationship; no favored trading partner; no evidence that the USA has every truly thawed to countries outside the Anglosphere. Whether Pakistan should have expected otherwise depends on what was actually traded; as pride per se doesn't have a high market value. Oct 13 '14 at 14:59

They can't. Exigencies of US diplomacy in that region mean that Pakistan's domestic and foreign priorities will never be in alignment with US goals.

Afghanistan and Pakistan differ only in the competency of their government and their military arsenal; and we certainly don't consider Afghanistan an ally in any meaningful sense of the word.

In practice we would benefit more leaving Pakistan in the sphere of China and then having good relationships with China and India instead. Cheaper too.

  • You should go into detail and provide some evidence for your statements. Are Pakistani and US interests mutually exclusive due to Islamism? India? China? All of the above? Are there interests Pakistani could compromise in order to improve its relation with the US?
    – Publius
    Oct 11 '14 at 6:13
  • @Avi Mutually exclusive? No. Sufficiently incompatible? Yes. I don't think it particularly wants to compromise with the US any more than it has to. Pakistan's history and foreign policy is dominated by its relationship with India. The US really doesn't factor into it. If 9/11 hadn't happened, Pakistan's concessions to the US would be even less than they currently are. It is not even entirely clear that the US wants Pakistan to compromise some of its interests as Pakistan serves as one of the only diplomatic channels the West has to contact the Taliban and regional Islamic insurgency. Oct 11 '14 at 6:45
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    I answered the question with the same casualness in which it was asked. Whilst I could trawl the Strafor whitepapers or the National Assembly of Pakistan archive for specifics, in practice diplomacy is a rather murky art. Oct 11 '14 at 7:34
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    I strongly believe in the philosophy that people lazy enough to ask casual questions should be punished by having to read painstakingly thorough answers.
    – Publius
    Oct 11 '14 at 7:41
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    @Avi I agree :-) But my lord is diplomacy a "he said, she said" discipline... Still, as a gesture of good faith - may I point out these two sources: The Pakistan Muslim League (national assembly majority) has a low opinion of the US; and The Pakistan People's Party (senate majority) has an even lower opinion of the US. Yeah. We've already squeezed as much blood out of the stone as we can expect at this stage of cultural development. Oct 11 '14 at 7:56

Pakistan is a very complex situation. It is a relatively secular government, with a lot of religious extremism within its borders. Pakistan doesn't even fully control the border areas with Afghanistan - it's an uneasy pact with the local warlords.

So, Pakistan can't afford to be seen to be too friendly with the US or any western nation, as that might give the extremists more motivation. The primary motivation of groups like ISIS and Al Qaida is resisting western influence in their home land.

Whether they are actually close to the US under the covers, is simply not known. And the rulers there are wise enough to keep it quiet, if they are still close with the US.

The bin Laden situation is anything but clear. If you look at photos of the compound he was living in, it looks more like a prison than a house: high walls, narrow windows, guard house, right near a Pakistan army base. If you were bin Laden looking to hide with a low profile, would you build a very obvious armored citadel right near the Pakistan army? Not likely.

One possible scenario was that Pakistan captured bin Laden, milked him for all he was worth in an isolated prison, and then cut a deal with Obama to let him get the credit for taking bin Laden out and boost his re-election bid, in return for additional funding.

And Pakistan couldn't be seen to cooperate with that, for fear of stirring up the Sunni extremists. Gosh darn it, we tried to catch that big noisy Chinook helicopter with supersonic F16's, but just couldn't do it. (fly lower, you're showing up on our radar screens)

You don't keep a government going in the political climate of that part of the world by being fools.

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    Blasphemy is punished by death penalty by the law (if it is not taken care of before by angry mobs), how is this "relatively secular"? By "relative", you mean compared to which country ? Jun 7 '17 at 15:39
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    Exactly what are the blasphemy laws, and how are they applied? Some actual facts would be nice. I had a resident of Jordan put me straight on the subject: yes, in many ME countries, cutting the right hand off of criminals is still on the books, but it is almost never applied. To get the death penalty for blasphemy, one would have had to ignore repeated incidents and repeated warnings. It's not you forget to say Allah Akbar at the right time, and you get shot. So, not freedom of speech, but one would be wise not to impose western values on an area they don't understand.
    – tj1000
    Jun 12 '17 at 14:27
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    Pakistan: man sentenced to death for blasphemy on Facebook theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/11/… . True, not all the points from old islamic texts in the law are applied, depending on the text in question and the country. This one still is, though, and without many warnings. Jun 12 '17 at 17:34

The problem is that there are active factions/elements within the Pakistan government (their intelligence services) and huge sections of the country that are strongly anti-US and extremist (not equating the two things) in their views. They support and aid terrorist elements, so we can't fully trust Pakistan with vital information we'd need for them to be able to cooperate fully with us. This is illustrated by the policy of carrying out strikes within Pakistan's borders (bin Laden raid an obvious example) without informing the government, which would often cause anger and denunciations (covered in my NY Times link further down).

Military.com: Why Pakistan supports the Taliban

CFR: The ISI and Terrorism - Behind the Accusations

Brookings Institution: On Pakistani Anti-Americanism

It is my understanding, though, that the general feelings of anti-American sentiment over large portions of the country are at a lower level than they were five to ten years ago.

In any case, the main thing that Pakistan would need to do is become a nation where the Taliban and other extremist elements were not allowed support by factions within the government or by the populace, at large. That's not a thing that's probably within the control of the government to do.

At the current time, I believe the state of relations is that we support the current government mainly to prevent those more extreme factions from taking over control. Because the more moderate elements are in power by a not especially dominant majority of public sentiment and political power, the US is careful not to push to strongly for measures that would inflame national sentiment and possibly cause the government to be toppled. It's entirely possible that not informing them of more controversial actions also gives the government deniability and the ability to denounce the USA, which might be more helpful to them, politically, than being closely in the loop. By the same token, if the ruling regime seemed to friendly and/or deferential to the USA, that might also spark anger or push-back, as well.

NY Times: Two-faced Allies - Pakistan and the US

Any movement to a more fully-trusted relationship is one that can only happen gradually, over time, I'd think.


Pakistan would have to be needed by America, as they were for example when they were helping with the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan would have to show it can be trusted as an ally - they screwed that up by harboring Bin Laden but also in a lot of other ways. That trust would need to be deepened by a long term alignment of interests.

To take for example South Korea, they were needed as a bulwark against communist expansion during the cold war. They showed through decades of military cooperation that they could be trusted as an ally in that struggle. At the end of the cold war they deepened the trust by aligning their interests politically and economically. Politically, they became a freedom loving democracy. Economically they had become important trading partners.

One final note, the friendship can't be too expensive, as Taiwan has learned. Taiwan certainly gets a lot of benefits from its relationship with America, but the relationship isn't as close as it would be if China wasn't so important to America and wasn't constantly threatening trouble with anyone who recognizes Taiwan's independence.

  1. Do not trust American advice.

    Argentina is an A student of the USA, and they showed the world what not to do. The Soviet in 1990s trusted America, they were ruined for good. One can smile and smile and be a villain.

    American national character is more like a coquette: as soon as you think of them as a big deal, they stop respecting you. Take a look at American WWII allies. Where are they now? GB lost its empire immediately afterwards; KMT lost China, fled to Taiwan and was betrayed by the US later on; the Soviet suffered decades-long sanctions by the US and eventually undone by American intrigues. The Philippines used to be sentimental with their American bros; now they begin to wise up.

    America's founding principle is "every man for himself, god for us all." There are no truer American allies than American soldiers, yet any veteran who forgets to fend for himself will be instantly cannibalized or discarded by fellow Americans - this explains why you hear so much noise about altruism - pay attention to what image people try to project, which may clue you off what they try to cover up. Friendship is built on mutual profit; sacrificing yourself with the purpose of gaining gratitude will earn you contempt instead. As a matter of fact, what is true of Americans is true of everyone else: gratitude has never been a politically important sentiment.

    No countries killed more Americans than Germany, Japan, China and Vietnam, yet the first three are among the most prosperous countries today - this is a curious fact from an anthropologist's point of view - and there are good reasons to expect Vietnam to join their ranks soon. All of them fought on the wrong side, but no one died in vain. They earned respect.

    South Korea and Japan were basically given the opportunity to work their butt off. If anyone thinks Korea and Japan owe their prosperity to American largess, they have misunderstood the situation. Germany was prosperous before the war and was prosperous afterwards once they were let live. The so-called American technologies are actually foreign made. Real American can't figure out anything; they relied heavily on immigrants from Europe and East Asia. The climate in South-west Pakistan is very similar to California; it might as well become the next California.

    China continues to rise in spite of American sanctions, embargoes and even naked invasions, and thrives in American media disparagement. China went American way in the sense that China adopted the American idea of free enterprises, as opposed to state owned enterprises. There is still a lot China can learn from the US; most of it is about what not to do. Soon there will be all-out space cooperation between the two because there is nothing they know we don't. America is going downhill due to demographic shift; there is nothing one can do about it. The next president is very likely to be an Irish with Indian roots.

  2. Borrow money as much as possible from American private sector, not the government. The government doesn't care ROI while the private sector does and they have lobbying power. Whoever lent you money will naturally wish you the best. The last thing they want is to see you perish before they get their money back.

  3. Build infrastructure. Emerging economy has very high growth rate, which in investors' terms means very high ROI. Once infrastructure is in place, people will beg you to use their money. Repeat step 2 will send you to an upward spiral.

  4. Increase the general purchasing power for the ordinary people. There are a lot of business models that are tried and true in other markets; just copy the model and finance some starter-uppers to make it happen; this can decrease unemployment rate and push you towards labour shortage virtually over night. Once you are rich enough to be a potential buyer for Boeing, GE, etc. people will begin to kiss your butt.

  5. Use your market for political quid pro quo. Americans will nudge you towards open market blah blah. Don't listen them. Open one sector at a time in exchange for some political favour.

  6. Raising the living standards of the people is the best way to fight terrorism. American organized crimes disappeared by itself in late 1990's due to low unemployment rates.

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    +1 for raising big-picture economic issues. Points 1 and 6 are partly true, and partly false. For example, it has been over a decade since Argentina took U.S. economic or legal advice seriously. The Japanese auto industry took American ideas about how to improve quality more seriously than the American auto industry. There is a lot that can "be done about" demographic shifts. The drop in U.S. crime rates in the 1990s has been attributed to the incarceration of large numbers of criminals starting in the 1990s, and/or high abortion rates (especially among blacks) starting in the 1970s.
    – Jasper
    Jun 6 '17 at 21:17
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    "Real American can't figure out anything" is really pushing the limits of be nice.
    – user11249
    Jun 7 '17 at 16:00
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    Please stop bumping this to the homepage with small edits ... the entire answer is already a poor fit for the site anyway. This would be better suited for your personal weblog or something.
    – user11249
    Jun 13 '17 at 16:40
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    There is no evidence that the west is more tolerant to freedom of opinions, either by personal disposition or by the constitution of the state. Jun 13 '17 at 16:59
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    @GeorgeChen I have screen-shotted this because it is honestly one of the most beautiful (if patently narcissistic and outrageous) assertions I've ever heard on the internet never mind StackExchange Jun 13 '17 at 19:01