Rabia Akhtar: The Blind Eye, U.S. Non-Proliferation Policy Towards Pakistan From Ford to Clinton
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This book review gives the views of the author, and not the position of School of Integrated Social Sciences nor of the University of Lahore.
State security and survival are the prime concerns of all states as realists believe that a state can be attacked by the other state at any time and there is no guarantee of security in international politics. It is integral for national security to enhance maximum power to protect the national borders and to accept the unavoidability of war. Many authors have produced literature connecting realism with state security in the past, but Dr. Rabia Akhtar’s book that was launched in November 2018, titled “The Blind Eye: U.S. Non-Proliferation Policy Towards Pakistan From Ford to Clinton”, provides a historical account of the US non-proliferation policy towards Pakistan and draws the connection between state survival and power maximization through the acquisition of nuclear weapons by linking it to Machiavellian doctrine that “Anything is justified by reason of state”.
Dr. Rabia’s book is the first literary work in Pakistan, which is based on the archival data taken from U.S presidential archives; and a unique account of five US administrations and their non-proliferation policy towards Pakistan. Collective actions can only take place on selective incentives and national interests are always supreme. As discussed in Dr. Rabia’s book, it was US’ strategic interest in the South Asian region, which required U.S to turn a blind eye towards Pakistan’s nuclear program and prioritized its imminent foreign policy over non-proliferation policy. U.S needed Pakistan to contain communism during Cold War and maintain a strategic balance. Many authors have dubbed this relationship as a “Marriage of convenience”, and this narrative has been mentioned by Dr. Rabia Akhtar as ‘stereotypical narratives’ that needs to get space in Pakistan.
It will not be wrong to say that both states share mutual grievances and trust deficit. America being the alleged betrayer for not supporting Pakistan through thick and thin against India, and Pakistan being deceitful by making a nuclear device. However, this book discusses U.S motives behind its South Asian policy in the pre-9/11 era while providing a detailed analysis on Pakistan’s justification for going nuclear. According to the author Pakistan wanted South Asian region to be a nuclear free weapon zone but events like Separation of East Pakistan in 1971 and Indian nuclear test in 1974 started the quest for Pakistan’s own security system. The evidences and data, which have been presented in this book clearly tells that US was very well aware of the Pakistan’s intentions, but showed flexibility to acheive its strategic goals in South Asian region.
Major events that put Pakistan at the receiving end were (1) Russian Invasion of Afghanistan, which waived off Symington Amendment and consequently gave huge relief to Pakistan’s economy and helped Pakistan in sophistication of its conventional weaponry. (2) 9/11 incident waived off the Glenn, Symington and Pressler Amendment, which were put on Pakistan after Pakistan’s nuclear test in 1998.
The acquisition of Nuclear power is mostly related to the threat perception of the states since it can be taken as the ‘Balance of Threat’ than balance of power in the absence of a uniform international system. This has been discussed by the author that initially Pakistan’s objective to align with US was to get security umbrella against India but US attitude in the Wars against India proved that Pakistan needs to have their own security system.
Furthermore, Indian nuclear test in 1974, which resulted into the making of Nuclear Suppliers Group to control and regulate nuclear exports, did not really affect U.S relations with India. Instead, this event caused hurdles for Pakistan’s ambitions to acquire nuclear technology. Interestingly, the author has urged a change in Pakistan’s narrative for acquiring nuclear capabilities that Pakistan needs to stop being guilty of making a nuclear device as it was in the very interest of state security and survival against her traditional rival, India.
This analysis of Pak-US relations draws a conclusion that states do cooperate, but they do not compromise on their national security. When analyzing the harsh side of U.S policies i.e. Pakistan specific economic and military sanctions, it can be clearly seen that U.S was more accommodating than imposing, else Pakistan would have had huge difficulties in acquiring nuclear device. Another important point which has been mentioned in this book is that no one in the civil and/or military leadership of Pakistan compromised on their national stance of acquiring nuclear device and building up their national security system.
The use of archival data provides a guideline to other researchers on how to incorporate these historical documents into contemporary research. Additionally, Dr. Rabia’s book is a timely addition to the current political debates that has filled the gap between the historical account of US-Pakistan relationship and their future dealings with each other. Recent re-engagement of both the states on Afghanistan peace process has proved that US and Pakistan will continue their security relationship as, Dr. Rabia Akhtar’s book presented a fair account of this relationship during the cold war to contain communism and after cold war to fight against terrorism. The author believes that both the countries will remain important for each other in their security and economic relationship.