Pakistan Observer

Pak-US Re-engagement

Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

Monday, March 26, 2012 - Amidst tough, but realistic recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS), for the reengagement with US, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani is scheduled to meet President Barrack Obama on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, the South Korean capital. As per White House, “The meeting will be an opportunity for the United States and Pakistan to continue high-level consultations on areas of mutual interest. In particular, the President looks forward to reviewing our efforts to support an Afghan-led reconciliation process.” Whereas, Pakistan always endeavoured for keeping open the diplomatic and leadership channels, it has always been supportive of peace through reconciliation in Afghanistan. The requirement is that this time, US must be in a receptive mood, rather in a state of denial as practiced in the past.

Under the prevailing situation, United States faces lot of difficulties in the maintenance of its forces in Afghanistan. This is mainly because of its odd relationship with Pakistan, besides, some of its recent acts within Afghanistan, which further complicated its future plans and even stay there. Maintaining good relationship between Pakistan and US would be in the best interest of both countries under the changing regional and global security environment. However, this would depend upon US sincerity and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan, the aspects; this super power has been ignoring more frequently in the past few years.

Pakistani Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has been very rational in finding out the grey areas of this inconsistent relationship and made practicable recommendations for a way forward. The crux of the recommendations is that; US should unconditionally apologize from Pakistan over the attack on Salala military post and killing of its twenty-four soldiers because of that attack in Mohmand Agency on November 26, 2011. U.S has been avoiding this apology deliberately, which Pakistan feels as another humiliation and contempt towards its sovereignty. Besides, the recommendations call for an “End to drone strikes, no hot pursuit by US forces inside Pakistan, strong oversight of the activities of foreign security contractors and the imposition of taxes on the supply of goods to NATO forces in Afghanistan.”

Definitely, this package of the recommendations, prepared by PCNS after many deliberations would be debated in the Parliament in a joint session of both houses. The debate would bring out a consensus document, which would be able to redefine the policy options for the Government to have renewed engagement in the Pak-US relationship in the future. It is expected that, the elected representatives of the Parliament would chalk out pragmatic terms for the future engagement between Pakistan and US, which essentially have been one sided so far. The opening of routes through Pakistan for the logistic supplies of NATO and US forces would also depend upon these recommendations.

Though US claims that it is using Northern Route through Russia and Central Asia, but this is a fact that, it is facing acute problems for the maintenance of its forces in Afghanistan under the current arrangements. Despite odds, Pakistan is allowing use of its aerial space for the airlift of the logistic supplies in Afghanistan, for which US must remain thankful to Pakistan. Whereas, United States must strictly follow its drawdown plan of December-2014, for vacating Afghan soil, the super power must regards to the Afghan traditions and culture in these critical days of its engagement.

US must win the consent (if not respect) of Afghan masses for an honourable exit. That would be possible only through respecting Afghans and avoiding undesired incidents as happened in the recent past, besides strictly following the pullout schedule. The recent development that, US Military would like to maintain a counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan even after 2014, as a result of likely “Strategic Partnership Agreement” would irk the already volatile situation there. US Military Commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen in its meeting on March 22, 2012 has told this to U.S Senate Armed Services Committee.

What could be the policy options for Pakistan, at a time once there is a obscure picture about US future engagement in Afghanistan and in the region. Whereas, there should be no breakdown of diplomatic channel, Pakistani leadership must be able convey the Pakistani perspective to the US leadership in the more clear term. Pakistani national interests, its concerns and reservations must be the centre of the talks for any future engagements with US. While, President Obama would like to ask for the Pakistani guarantees and facilitations on US-Taliban negotiations and opening of the routes for the logistic supplies through Pakistan, Prime Minister Gillani, must use its bargaining chip to pursue Pakistani interests and securing US guarantees for respecting Pakistani sovereignty in future.

Keeping away the begging bowl, as an excuse for the economic development of Pakistan, Mr Gillani must pursue trade opportunities between Pakistan and US, especially access for the Pakistani goods to the US markets without discrimination. Strategically, US must be asked to follow an equitable relation with the regional countries, especially Pakistan and India. Under no circumstances, should the US be allowed to cause an imbalance between the two nuclear powers of South Asia, by favouring a particular country. As an independent country, Pakistan has the right to pursue its interests both domestically as well as internationally. After all, why should US compel this nuclear power to cut-off Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Agreement? Therefore, in the light of PCNS recommendations, Premier Gillani must convey Pakistani concern to President Obama on this issue of Pakistani national interest and immediate need, indeed.

Regarding Afghan future, Pakistan neither pursue the canard of strategic depth, nor desire a role for itself in the formulation of future set up there. However, being immediate and intimate neighbour, would desire a peace and long-term stability in that country for the common good of both nations. Pakistan believes that, a stable Afghanistan would guarantee a stable, strong and peaceful Pakistan. Owing to its historical linkages, Pakistan should facilitate Afghan Government in bringing together various Afghan ethnic and religious groups through an indigenous Afghan solution. While Pakistan does that, US neither should isolate Pakistan, nor should negotiate with a few Taliban away from Afghan soil and Administration. Because of its long association and affiliations with Afghans and being the most affected country after Afghanistan itself, US must value Pakistani suggestions, while negotiating a plan for the Afghanistan. The utmost, Pakistan would ask; an equitable share for all Afghans, as per their population proportion, without any discrimination to anyone.

On its part, United States must regard and respect the outcome of the PCNS recommendations and whatever transpires in the Parliamentary debate in the light of these recommendations. If US lawmakers and Administration has the right to make laws for pursuing its national interests, should not they respect others once they follow the same channel. Indeed, the mutual respect would bring us to a win-win situation and a respectable and balance future engagement in our bilateral relationship.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.

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