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A Fraught Relationship

Priyanka Singh

By Daniel S. Markey
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 248, Rs. 495.00


Since 2001, the United States led war on terror has consistently dominated the regional strategic discourse. Parallel to this has been the discourse on the ties between the US and Pakistan, its long-time ally ever since its creation in 1947. The equations have been quite uneven, estranged at times, but never broken completely. Beginning 2001 to the 2011 Osama killing till date, as the US led forces prepare to withdraw, several experts have written on the dismal state of the US-Pakistan ties. Daniel Markey, a seasoned expert on the subject, shares his perspective under the rather curtly titled account inspired by Jean Paul Sartre’s work No Exit referring to a situation where two characters are caught together in a torturous hell like situation. Markey captures the downsides of the bilateral ties between the two countries and highlights uncertainties and dilemmas at a point when the US led allied forces are slated for drastic reduction by the end of 2014.   The book presents an interesting characterization of Pakistan’s four faces: basket case-uneven growth, lack of development, dismal state of infrastructure and a feudal society where attempts to introduce land reforms have failed repeatedly; a garrison state where the military is the overarching influence flourishing mainly on the India threat factor, the nuclear dimension and a peculiar case of amassing huge caches of wealth; a terrorist incubator—for safeguarding Islam and ideology, and how such groups pose a security challenge internally; and the rise of the youthful idealist—in the form of political groups as Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) with an essentially reformist, radical agenda and where media has a key role.   Markey quite ably puts US-Pakistan relations in a bilateral and regional perspective, lining up past compulsions and present realities, which pose an immense challenge to the ties. The book in several ways deviates from the conventional debate on US-Pakistan relations where the blame is put entirely on Pakistan for having embraced fundamentalism. Much of the current situation has to do with the evolution of US-Pakistan relations vis-à-vis meeting geopolitical requirements in the region. For the US, Pakistan has been the crucial base in the region—given Pakistan’s geographical proximity to both China and Afghanistan, US is unlikely to forgo this. Therefore, as the book suggests, there is no easy exit for the US from Pakistan, even though Pakistan has emerged as the epicentre of militant groups targeting primarily the ...

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