Traditionally, the bi-lateral relationship of these two ‘frenemies’ has under gone different ups and downs. Though the War on Terror had opened new horizons of mutual partnership, President Trump’s antagonistic approach towards Pakistan ended the brief honey-moon period of good relations, following Barack Obama. Soon after being elected, Donald Trump’s revulsion towards an old ally created a tense environment for both sides. The situation worsened further with the announcement of the South Asian policy in August 2017.
Despite these shortcomings, the US has always been yelling in favor of democracy and peaceful transitions of power to democratic institutions in Pakistan. Though, Atlantic power has endorsed dictators in Pakistan during different phases of this relationship based on its own interests. Whatever the case has been, the current political situation and suppositions of the July 25 elections has left analysts to negatively predict the future of Pak-US relations. Constant blame on Pakistan for assisting terrorists, diplomatic restraints, matters of FATF and mutual lack of conviction have raised many questions.
The US administration has shown diplomatic alertness by giving statements of a free, fair and transparent electoral process with the hope of working together for peace and stability in the region. But, things are not as simple as they seem to be. A lot more depends on the upcoming Pakistani government and how it responds to the US policies and intentions while safeguarding our own national interests.
Secondly, the root causes of trust deficit needs to be identified by both sides while adopting a respectful and harmonious approach. No one needs to be over confident in delivering immediate results because there is nothing easy about dealing with a superpower like the US. Pakistan’s international image portrayed by the US and its other close allies is riddled with serious anti-Pakistan agenda leaving no opportunity to deprecate Pakistan, and requires a redefined approach to minimize growing hostile sentiments.
The US has to admit its own need for purposeful and comprehensive negotiations with Pakistan. Threats, economic chaos and creating suspicions will never yield high results; it will only worsen circumstances
Thirdly, there is wide spread anti-American sentiments and resentment among masses in Pakistan because of the negligible recognition of Pakistan’s positive role, sacrifices and blatant US favoritism regarding India in the region. Religious spheres take the US as an anti-Islamic power, generally the public views it as an aggressor and civil-military officials are fed-up with the ‘do more’ mantra. Pakistan’s strategic alliance with China and its recent inclination towards Russia are immediate responses to the changing behavior of the US. The strategic importance of the South Asian region will never allow the US to ignore us completely as is evident from its hegemonic surveillance here. The US has to admit its own need of purposeful and comprehensive negotiations with Pakistan, threats, economic chaos creating suspicions will never yield high results conversely; it will only worsen circumstances.
Furthermore, the United States’ apprehensions prevail like a heavy cloud over Pakistan. We must ensure the US of our determination to eradicate terrorism from our soil. Diverse sects of society, political parties and military officials should unite to detect the problems and devise a comprehensive plan to sustain national peace and stability. Improvement in relations with neighbours can create a softer corner in the US hearts. Importantly, the US should limit its pressurizing tactics on Pakistan. Diplomatic maneuvering and supporting a positive international image can do a lot for Pakistan. Both states need each other. There is no alternate for both of them considering the geo-strategic realities of both. The US is also cautious of recent entry in main stream politics of previously banned militant organization. This really is a serious issue for Pakistan itself which demands a positive role from civil society along with the government to limit their activities to a non-threatening level.
Seemingly, things are not as bad as they are being tacitly exposed by international media. The tragedy is that Pakistan has been unable to present its case in an appealing way. It is lagging behind in diplomatic performances. The exemption of civil-military collective approach to some extent might be among the reasons behind this horrendous state of affairs along with inactive foreign policy institutions. Economic dependency and low-level output in terms of indigenous resources and capabilities is another reason Pakistan has limited foreign policy options. Internal law and order situation and individual rights preservation can minimise the impacts of external threats in such an ethno-diverse country.
The recent elections are very significant in this perspective because the future of Pakistan’s foreign affairs has to be handled by the upcoming Government. The US is also eyeing this electoral phase to define its future conduct of bi-lateral relations. Though, there is no major breakthrough expected instantly after the elections in terms of dealing with the super power. But, it definitely will bring out a new spirit and motivation among Pakistanis to handle US reservations. These tangible steps will define the future road map of Pak-US relations, how these policies will play out, we are all eager to see.
The writer is a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad and MPhil IR Quaid e Azam University Islamabad
Published in Daily Times, July 31st 2018.