DURING the Cold War era, bilateralism has been the dominant factor in the relationship between Pakistan and United States. Within bilateralism, US had its own strategic objectives to attain through Pakistani geopolitics and Pakistan found a supporting super power to address its security concerns, mainly emanating from its eastern hostile neighbour. In the post-cold war era, there have been new realignments at international level. US became the sole super power and promulgated a new World Order, which suited its global supremacy. While at the global and regional level, new adjustments and readjustments were still facing reluctance, the world was shaken by the unfortunate incident of 9/11. Being in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan, this ill-timed and disastrous incident affected Pakistan more than any other country.
From 2001 onwards, Pak-US relationships were mainly driven by Afghan factor. While being in Afghanistan as invading power, US strategic objectives never coincided with Pakistan. Despite taking advantage of Pakistani geopolitics, Washington always preferred and promoted Indian role in Afghanistan while relegating Pakistani role. This discriminatory policy of Washington remained a major irritant in the Pak-US bilateral relationship ever since 2001. There has been deadlock in Pak-US relationship since last two years. After having an exhaustive ten days US tour, Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi highlighted this US focus and said that, “it will not be appropriate to view our relations going as far back as seven decades from the Afghan perspective or the Indian lens.” Truly, Pak-US relations should not be viewed and judged only through the perspective of India or Afghanistan.
Indeed, there is more to this relationship both at bilateral as well as multilateral level. Viewing from the Afghan lens, Pakistan is enthusiastic to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan, since its own stability and peace is somehow linked with Afghanistan. Had US been serious to bringing peace in Afghanistan, there would have been conjunctions in the interests of Pakistan and United States. Pakistan is facing a similar situation on its eastern border. India has repeatedly refused to talk with Pakistan on the core issues like Jammu and Kashmir, water and widespread terrorism, it is promoting in Pakistan. Had US been serious to take its relationship forward with Pakistan through an optimistic approach, it could have used its influence on India, being the super power and its strategic partner.
Unfortunately, United States wants everything from Pakistan without giving anything in return. This has been a routine in the period of Cold war, but now, there is a changed situation and Pakistan would like to pursue its own national interests through an independent foreign policy. During his meeting with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington, Foreign Minister Qureshi put up the Pakistani perspective in a clear and concise manner. US will have to understand, recognize and respect the Pakistani contributions during the prolonged war against terrorism. While U.S and NATO could not attain the laid down objectives in Afghanistan during their extended deployment (2001-2015), Pakistani armed forces achieved what it was difficult to be attained on several occasions. Besides, Pak Army sheltered the drawdown of US and NATO forces, which could have been made difficult owing to dominant Taliban factor in Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning that, Taliban still maintains hold on over 45% area of Afghanistan.
Fading away of the misunderstandings between Pakistan and US would take time, since it requires lot of efforts, sincerity and dedication. A formal start has already been taken by both countries through meetings and discussions. Nevertheless, in order to positively move forward, these meetings and debates should prove as catalyst rather a dictation from any particular side. By not taking dictation from Washington since last few years, Islamabad though lost economic assistance, yet upheld its national integrity, sovereignty and an independent foreign policy pursuits. Its fight against terrorism is continuing without US and any international financial assistance. U.S has suspended even the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which was agreed upon as fund not aid between both countries in the heat of war against terror. Its reimbursement since last two years has been conditioned by Washington on unfounded demands, indeed nothing to do with Pakistan.
While efforts are underway to revive Pak-US relationship, Washington needs to pursue a balance foreign policy towards India and Pakistan in the regional context of South Asia. As a sole super power, US has certain international and regional obligations towards resolution of outstanding issues between Pakistan and India. Peace in South Asia is linked with resolution of core issue between India and Pakistan and return of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan is more than willing to cooperate with US on equal grounds. A balanced approach by United States without biases will act as catalyst towards regionalism of South Asia and revival of its relationship with Pakistan. With a policy of alienation and discrimination, US may find itself as a misplaced partner in the realm of new strategic realignment with the multipolar world having multiple power centres.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and International Relations at International Islamic University, Islamabad.