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Reviewed by:
  • The United States and Pakistan, 1947–2000: Disenchanted Allies
  • Thomas W. Simons Jr.
Dennis Kux , The United States and Pakistan, 1947–2000: Disenchanted Allies. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2001.

This judicious chronicle of U.S.-Pakistani relations from the 1940s to the twenty-first century is bound to be the definitive work on the topic. Kux has served as a U.S. diplomat in both India and Pakistan, he has a thorough mastery of the documentary record, and he has interviewed an astonishing range of players on both sides. The book is almost a source in its own right. It complements his earlier and equally magisterial history of U.S. relations with Pakistan's great South Asian neighbor, India and the United States: Estranged Democracies 1941-1991 (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1992). Together these books constitute the best record we are ever likely to have of how Cold War impulses and concerns meshed (and did not mesh) with the life of this vital region.

In the years since India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, the central strategic feature of South Asia has been the huge imbalance of power and deep hostility between the two countries. Pakistan has always sought to enlist the outside world in the Subcontinent to counter power ratios of roughly four-to-one in India's favor. India, for its part, has almost always been allergic to outside involvement in the region. The ongoing dispute over Kashmir crystallizes and perpetuates their hostility. But until the 1990s the specific shape of the conflict was heavily influenced by Cold War currents and crosscurrents.

Kux discusses the fifty-three years of U.S.-Pakistani relations from 1947 to 2000 by dealing in turn with each of the U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton. With hindsight we can see that this half-century was divided into two main periods bridged by the decade of the 1960s. The two phases of the relationship corresponded in large measure to the Cold War itself, from its dangerous early decades to its more manageable mature phase. Pakistan and the United States had different starting points: The Pakistani government was fixated on India, whereas the U.S. government focused most of its attention on the Soviet Union and Communist China. But this discrepancy was masked in the 1950s by the anti-Communist orientation of the U.S. alliances that Pakistan joined. Not until the1960s did the two countries recognize how deep and limiting their differences were. Pakistanis felt betrayed by U.S. assistance to India after the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and then by the evenhanded U.S. aid cutoff during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. To compensate for these "betrayals," the Pakistanis proceeded to make China the centerpiece of their foreign relations, a [End Page 166] step that alienated the Americans further. Preoccupied with Vietnam, U.S. officials during the Johnson administration practically washed their hands of South Asia, and a new and more complicated phase of U.S.-Pakistani relations began.

The 1965 war ended in a standoff, but when Pakistan then blundered into civil war between its eastern and western territories, India stepped in to free East Pakistan, which emerged as the independent country of Bangladesh. In the process, India doubled its local power advantages over the remaining portion of Pakistan. Yet the new phase was also Cold War driven, only more indirectly. Although Pakistan clove more tightly than ever to its relationship with China, the United States itself decided in the early 1970s to make an opening to Beijing. Pakistan helped midwife the U.S.-China rapprochement, but the payoff for Islamabad cut two ways: On the one hand, it produced the famous U.S. "tilt" toward Pakistan during the 1971 East Pakistan crisis; on the other hand, it helped bring India into a semi-alliance with the Soviet Union. The U.S. "tilt" toward Pakistan was temporary (mainly because of U.S. concerns about Pakistan's nuclear weapons program), but the Indo-Soviet connection remained firm until the USSR dissolved in 1991.

Thus, during the final decade-and-a-half of the Cold War, Pakistan was semi- aligned with...