pakistan-us relations

Written by Amna Asif 12:30 pm Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Pakistan, Published Content

Pakistan-US Relations: As Fickle as the Weather

The US has had a turbulent relationship with Pakistan since the country’s independence in 1947. Over the course of 75 years, minor changes have occurred in the way bilateral exchanges are conducted between the two nations. Despite the rollercoaster relationship, the US has assisted Pakistan by providing necessary loans, humanitarian aid, and military equipment during exigent situations. Moreover, the US is a major foreign direct investor in Pakistan’s economy, and its largest export partner. However, bilateral relations between the two have been deteriorating because of scathing remarks and underhanded activities.
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About the Author(s)
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Ms Amna Asif has a bachelor's degree from NUST. She is currently pursuing her graduate studies at George Washington University.

Initial years

During its initial years, Pakistan had the opportunity to develop strong relations with either Russia or the US; Pakistan chose the latter. In 1954, the United States and Pakistan signed a Mutual Defense Assistance agreement which allowed the United States to establish a Military Assistance Advisory Group while Pakistan sent a number of its soldiers to the US to receive training.

Two years later, Dwight D. Eisenhower requested Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the prime minister at the time, to lease Peshawar Air Station. The request was granted and the base was utilized to covertly monitor the activities of the Soviet Union. This transactional relationship continued well into the 1960s when Pakistan entered the 1965 war with India.

As India was also an ally of the United States, deploring the two countries for their actions was considered a necessity. The half-billion dollar aid that the US provided to the nascent country of Pakistan was ceased and sanctions were imposed on both India and Pakistan.

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This ultimately resulted in an economic collapse for Pakistan, as it did not possess the means to operate its internal functions without foreign aid. It was certain that Pakistan had become dependent on the money and humanitarian aid that it received from the United States.

Cold War Era

During the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan was a key ally of the United States. Both even enjoyed cordial relations with each other. Over the course of a decade, Pakistan and the United States worked together to prevent the Soviet Union from further advancing into the region.

As Pakistan provided a passageway into Afghanistan to the United States military personnel, the United States returned the favor by granting billions of dollars to the country with respect to military and economical aid. Additionally, the United States used Mujahideen as proxies to counter the Soviet forces in Afghanistan; this was done with the support of Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

Consequently, the porous border along with the intermingling of two disparate countries percolated the Kalashnikov and drug culture to Pakistan. However, after the end of the Soviet war, the relationship again took a negative turn. The Pressler amendment was a basis upon which sanctions were imposed on Pakistan for alleged nuclear proliferation in 1990. By this time, Pakistan had lost its value as a critical ally of the United States, and its strategic importance to the US had decreased.

The Late 1990s

In 1995, Benazir Bhutto visited the United States and requested the removal of sanctions. In response to her pleas, the Brown amendment was enacted which released the $368 million military equipment that Pakistan had purchased from the United States but never received due to the sanctions imposed in 1990. However, even then, the sanctions remained in place.

Several years later in 1998, Nawaz Sharif approved nuclear tests in Chagai Hills, Balochistan on May 28, in retaliation to the nuclear tests conducted in India. Consequently, the Clinton administration condemned the act and under the Glenn amendment, imposed sanctions on both India and Pakistan.

The Glenn amendment included the suspension of aid, loans, grants, and creditors from the United States, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. Thus, rendering them both ineligible to obtain any form of assistance from international sources. However, at the end of 1998, the sanctions were lifted when Pakistan and India purchased agricultural products from US farmers.

Early 2000

The War on Terror was waged after the tragic 9/11 incident took the lives of 2996 innocent people. President George W. Bush demanded the compliance and support of all countries lest they be viewed as harborers of terrorist groups. In a special call to President Parvez Musharaf, President Bush said “Either you are with us or against us”. Therefore, leaving no room for Pakistan to consider alternative approaches.

Naturally, Pakistan chose to assist the United States to the best of its ability, providing them a passageway into Afghanistan, yet once again. Paraphernalia and other resources were traversed through Pakistan before they reached their final destination, Afghanistan. Despite these crucial efforts by Pakistan to placate the superpower, the United States criticized and alleged that the Pakistani intelligence agencies tipped off Jihadists.

The trust deficiency increased when Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted person by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was thought to be hiding in Abbottabad, just half a mile from Pakistan’s military academy. In an effort to furtively capture Osama Bin Laden, a secret operation by the name of Operation Neptune Spear was launched by the United States Army’s SEAL team six on May 2, 2011. They raided the compound in Abbottabad and ostensibly killed Osama Bin Laden within nine minutes.

The United States ultimately ended its 20-year-long war against terrorism on August 15, 2021. The war was the longest and most costly war the United States had ever engaged in. However, by then, Pakistan was yet again abandoned by the United States, who had cleverly used the country and its resources before leaving it lost amidst the chaos ensuing in its neighboring country.

Current Situation

After the end of the War on Terror, the United States diverted its attention to countering China and bolstering its military presence in the Indo-Pacific. The value Pakistan held for the United States during the Soviet cold war has completely dissipated along with its evacuations from the region.

However, after the catastrophic deluge that occurred in Balochistan and Sindh, the United States provided $30 million to Pakistan to provide relief to those who had been severely affected by the 2022 floods. Then on October 15, 2022, in a recent press statement, Joe Biden, the current president of the United States, stated that Pakistan is “one of the most dangerous nations in the world”.

This was a remark pertaining to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, igniting widespread outrage in the country, particularly because Pakistan has invariably abided by international law regarding the maintenance and surveillance nuclear arsenal. Despite adhering to those stringent measures, unwarranted allegations were made.

Furthermore, erstwhile prime minister Imran Khan contends that the United States has meddled with the political functions of Pakistan and has “imported” the current ruling regime. The United States, however, has denied interfering in the domestic politics of Pakistan.

Thus, the tempestuous relationship between the United States and Pakistan can be clearly witnessed by the events and transactions that occur between the two. The relationship changes from congenial and warm to bitter and nonchalant within a matter of weeks.


Pakistan ought to remain an ally of the United States, but it should still seek other potential markets to export its products. China has invariably been a weather friend to Pakistan, supporting Pakistan during times of difficulty including the pandemic when it gifted 1.2 million vaccine doses for assistance. Thus, besides proceeding with the bilateral trade with the United States, Pakistan should maintain cordial relations with all neighboring countries to bolster its economy and access to other essential resources.


In conclusion, Pak-US relations have been unsteady since Pakistan’s inception in 1947. The US sanctions Pakistan according to its own will and then removes the embargoes when desired. Yet, it remains the largest export market for Pakistani goods and grants humanitarian aid and economical aid when catastrophic disasters occur.

Pakistan has abundant resources and both economic and strategic potential that can be beneficial to any country that decides to invest in it. Therefore, if the United States does not realise Pakistan’s potential, there are other countries that are willing to fill the void.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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