Significance of National Security

In the twentieth century, states faced two world wars that crumpled the economies and infrastructure of the involved parties. After World War II, the United States and the USSR emerged as two super powers in international affairs. Both knew that a strong security and defensive power would give them the upper hand on the other party. After the Cold War, the issue of national security hid behind economic cooperation and increasing trade relations among states, but nonetheless the policy of security remained among the top policy priorities of states. At the start of the twenty-first century, the concept of national security again became the top most foreign policy issue, especially for the United States, after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

US Foreign Policy and National Security

“National security policy is primarily concerned with formulating and implementing national strategy involving the threat or use of force to create a favorable environment for US national interests”. (Sarkesion, Williams, Cimbala, 2008, pp. 5-7)

Since World War II, the foreign policy of the United States has mostly revolved around national security and issues related to it. First it was the USSR with which America was fighting for security and power dominance in the Cold War. Then the United States emerged as the sole super power and hegemon in the international community and could prioritize its own security interests even more.

US Security Interests in South Asia

South Asia has been a region of great interest and conflict, especially for the last 30-35 years.  It has been the area where super powers have engaged in proxy and indirect wars with each other. The Soviet War (December 24 1979-February 15 1989) in Afghanistan is the major example of the clash of big power in this part of the world. The war ended with victory for US-backed Mujahideen, while the USSR would disintegrate within the decade (Coll, 1992)

After the war, the United States left the region. The terrorist elements that the United States had itself created would cause the 9/11 incident in the United States in 2001 and change the whole direction of US foreign policy regarding South Asia. A 2012 Defense Paper issued by US Department of Defense lists South Asia among the major critical regions for the United States. The US government is looking to enhance the security of the region and of its allies in the region. (US Department of Defense Report, 2012: p.2)

Relations with Pakistan

In this “War on Terrorism” Pakistan has been the front ally of the United States. It has been a roller coaster relationship over the years as relations between Pakistan and United States have gone from best to worst and from uncertain to a lack of trust.  Due to regional and international security circumstances, both parties have been close and have signed a number of security pacts like the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 and the Baghdad Pact, which later became the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), in 1955. (Sial, 2007, p.2)

Relations with India

Although Pakistan became a security ally with the United States before India did and although Indian governments increased their ties with the Soviet Union – at critical points and on certain issues the United States either supported India or did not take any aggressive initiative against it. In 1962, during Sino-Indian border conflict, the United States supported the latter (Kux, 2002, p.1). During the 1960s, some liberal intellectuals of the Democratic Party had been advocating the case of India in United States and were of the view that as India was the most powerful and influential democracy in Asia, it should be supported by the West, in an ideological fight of the “Free World” versus communist states like China. Other examples regarding the United States’ tilt towards India are the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in 2004 and Civil-Nuclear deal of 2006. Pakistan is the front ally of the United States, but the United States administration signed these highly strategically, militarily and economically important agreements with India.  (Hassan, 2012, pp.44-45)

Reasons of US Security Policy Change in South Asia

Although Pakistan remained a close ally of the United States for last four to five decades, US security policy has been tilting towards India since the 1990s, especially during the government of Bill Clinton. There are number of major reasons for this US policy approach.

  • The United States wants a strong ally in South Asia to counter China’s economic and strategic ambitions in the region
  • India is a fast growing economy. Due to its area and population, it is a huge economic market for US products, both civilian and defense.
  • The trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States is third reason for this US policy change in South Asia. Both states are allies, but a lack of trust has deepened the gulf in relations between both parties.


South Asia has remained a critical region for major powers, especially for the United States. Pakistan and India are highly important states for the United States.  Pakistan chose the capitalist block in the Cold War. It fought both Afghan wars as a front ally of the United States. Despite these relations, Pakistan and the United States often diverge on foreign policy issues and concerns, which leads US security interests to tilt towards India.  As a rapidly growing economy, strategically important India is becoming a close ally of the United States.


Image: U.S. Department of State, Flickr

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