- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

The Impact of Pakistan's and Bangladesh's National Strategies on U.S. Interests

Polly Nayak


This chapter assesses how Pakistan's and Bangladesh's grand strategies and domestic dynamics are affecting U.S. counterterrorism, stability, and democracy goals in South Asia.

Main Argument

  • Pakistan’s grand strategy, with an emphasis on balancing against Afghanistan and India, will continue to limit cooperation in the war on terrorism, regardless of whether elected civilian leaders retain power or the military intervenes again. The repercussions of Islamabad’s clandestine regional policies are adding to internal challenges to the weak Pakistani state, which include an ethnic Pashtun insurgency on the border with Afghanistan.
  • Bangladesh’s internal development goals remain the basis of national consensus and legitimacy. Despite fears that partisan violence and Islamist extremism will make Bangladesh as unstable as Pakistan, the greater risk would be if military leaders retain power to press administrative reforms at the expense of political participation and economic growth.

Policy Implications

  • Though many officials see the war on terrorism as the main U.S. equity in Pakistan, growing internal instability poses the greater challenge to U.S. interests and warrants consideration as Washington’s top policy priority there. To gain legitimacy, solutions for many internal problems, including the future status of tribal areas, will need to be home-grown, but acknowledging the validity of Pakistan’s domestic preoccupations could improve bilateral ties.
  • Dhaka’s role as a cooperative moderate Islamic ally warrants cabinet-level diplomacy. Along with other aid donors, Washington may be able to induce the military to agree on a timetable for re-democratization.