1. Why did you write this book?

The purpose of this book is not to provide an exhaustive historical account of the ups and downs of U.S.-Pakistan relations. This book analyzes the themes, techniques and styles that have characterized Pakistani negotiations with American civilian and military officials in recent years, and presents some conclusions about what these are likely to be in the future.  The book focuses specifically on Pakistan’s negotiations with the United States because the critical importance of the U.S. to Pakistan’s security has lent a unique character to the way the two countries negotiate with one another.


2. Who can benefit from reading this book?

The discussion here is geared primarily to officials, but the cultural advice applies with equal force to those representing businesses, universities, or NGOs. Especially at a time of rampant anti-Americanism, private Americans need to be conscious of the way Pakistanis look at the U.S. government as well as more generally on the United States and its citizens.


3. What factors shape Pakistan’s approach to negotiating with the United States?

Pakistan’s approach to negotiations with Americans is shaped chiefly by three factors.

1. The first and most important is Pakistanis’ concept of their country’s place in the world, including their perception of the United States and the volatile history of U.S.-Pakistan relations. This is especially important because so many of their key negotiations with the United States are intended to set the broad terms of the bilateral relationship and in that context to define what kind of support the U.S. will provide.

2. The second major influence is Pakistan’s culture.  Pakistan’s operating style and expectations are shaped by a society in which the most important bonds are personal, relationships both inside and outside the government are hierarchical and the less powerful often try to turn their weakness into strength.

3. Finally, Pakistan’s negotiations with Americans reflect the structures of their government and political system, notably its divided authority and the outsized role the military has historically played.  Taken together, these elements produce an approach in which negotiators cultivate what one might call “the art of the guilt trip.” Important negotiations usually involve a major effort to create a sense of obligation on the part of the United States or to nurture and intensify the fear that failure to honor Pakistan’s requests will lead to disastrous consequences for U.S. interests.


4. What factors have influenced American interest in Pakistan?

American interest in Pakistan has been powerfully influenced by geography. Pakistan’s location close to the southern reaches of the Soviet Union led Washington in the 1950s and early 1960s to enlist it in American-led Cold War alliances designed to contain potential Communist aggression.  Proximity to Afghanistan made Pakistan a vital player in the 1980s when the U.S. sought to frustrate Soviet efforts to consolidate its military occupation of that Islamic neighbor. And after 9/11, Pakistan’s common border with Afghanistan again prompted Washington to revive security ties, this time to combat Al Qaeda and the Taliban on the “central front” of the U.S.-led “global war on terrorism.”

Other factors have also helped shape American interest in Pakistan, of course.  Over time these have included American’s regard for Pakistan’s military, its concern for the economic and social development of a large and impoverished Third World country, its fears about Pakistani nuclear weapons, and its desire to be on good terms with a major, diplomatically active Muslim nation.


5. How do Pakistan’s national cultural characteristics color interactions with the United States?

Pakistan is a high-context society, more attuned to the rights and obligations of the group than to those of the individual.  It is a society in which honor is all-important and hospitality a solemn obligations. Many of the classic points of friction with the more individualistic and task-oriented approach of most U.S. officials, crop up in U.S.-Pakistani negotiations, sometimes significantly modified by the geo-strategic context and government structure within which Pakistan’s negotiators operate.


6. How does Pakistan view the United States?

Pakistan’s negotiators look on the United States as a country critical to Pakistan’s security, but one that Pakistan cannot count on in times of trouble. A major theme of Pakistan’s history is insecurity, and this makes Pakistanis acutely conscious of the disparity of size and power between themselves and the United States. This accentuates their view that the U.S. routinely threatens Pakistan, that what the Americans see as forcefulness is really arrogance, and that the negotiating process as conceived by the United States is really a series of U.S. demands that Pakistan is forced to accept. The United States has always been a key element in Pakistan’s strategy of balancing India’s size and power. Despite concerns about U.S. faithlessness, Pakistan’s governments have looked for ways of getting and keeping a U.S. connection.  

At the same time, during times of closest Pakistan-U.S. cooperation, Pakistani leaders have been convinced that, however useful they found the relationship with Washington, the United States needed Pakistan more. They drove a correspondingly hard bargain on the major issues in the relationship.  The case studies in the book examine this more closely.

Throughout the ups and downs of U.S.-Pakistani relations, Pakistanis have felt that the United States used Pakistan when it was convenient, and abandoned it when Pakistan was no longer needed. Especially in the period since 2001, these sentiments have become part of the political lingua franca of Pakistan, and anti-Americanism has increased, even as the country’s leaders, both civil and military, recognized that they needed the United States.


7. How does Pakistan’s governmental structure affect its negotiations?

Power relationships within the Pakistan government, together with the particular cultures of each of its major constituent parts, are a major influence on Pakistan’s negotiating style. The army is the power player and when its direct interest are engaged, it can trump not only the civilian bureaucracy but the country’s elected government. The diplomats and civil servants who form the sinews of the country’s government and carry out many of its negotiations with the United States, share many negotiating traits with the military, but with one striking difference: whereas military officers are supremely, perhaps overly confident, not just of their ability but also of their standing to make national decisions, civilian officials are often testing how much authority they will be able to exercise.  Pakistan’s politician have led most government ministries and participated in the bicameral parliament.  Their power and authority is substantial during periods of civilian rule, but drops off when a military officer leads the country.


8. How do Pakistanis deal with the United States in the context of India-Pakistan negotiations?

In dealing with the United States on India-Pakistan issues, Pakistan’s goal has simply been to get Washington involved in the belief that U.S. intervention would neutralize India’s greater size and power and produce a more favorable result.  In particular, Pakistan has sought to engage the U.S. on Kashmir.  Since the early 1990s the principal form of U.S. Involvement in India-Pakistan diplomacy has been crisis management in situations that could lead to war and escalate to nuclear conflict.


9. In considering how to negotiate most effectively with Pakistan, what should U.S. negotiators keep in mind?

U.S. negotiators need to examine three groups of issues. First are questions of cultural style. Second are issues arising from the disparity in national power and the difference in the structure of the two governments. Finally, and by far the most important, are issues arising from diverging, at times quite contradictory, objectives that have so often afflicted U.S.-Pakistan relations. Here, U.S. negotiators face a challenge of both policy and negotiating style: can two countries whose tactical goals overlap but whose strategic priorities diverge significantly negotiate a reliable basis for cooperation?


10. How does the book predict the U.S.- Pakistan relationship will evolve in the future?

The United States and Pakistan can work together in support of the objectives they share, though these may need to be more carefully defined than in the past. There will still be plenty of negotiating to do and many more limited objectives on which the two countries can find common ground. But the limitations on U.S.-Pakistan relations are likely to become more visible. The most important lesson for U.S. Policy-makers and negotiators is to recognize both the potential and the limits of Pakistan as a U.S. partner.

 

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