Back on Road to Washington
AFTER a rough patch of over five years Islamabad and Washington have started mending fences once again.
In this regard the first confidence building measure (CBM) was taken by Washington through a sale of $450 million of military equipment in order to maintain and sustain Pakistan’s F-16 aircrafts fleet, a US State Department spokesperson told Dawn on Thursday.
This provision of mainly spare parts was part of basic agreement at the time, Pakistan purchased these aircrafts from US starting from 1980s which US has been impeding over the decades on one pretext or the other.
There is nothing new in this sale as clear from the statement of US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA); “the proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions”.
Nevertheless, this sale has come up as an enthusiastic CBM by US which created a confirmatory image of US among a circle of Pakistanis.
Apart from this CBM, in last few months US has initiated some measures to counter what anti-Americanism is cropping up in Pakistan in the wake of regime-change in Pakistan.
Though the regime-change process has taken place in Pakistan as per the constitutional provisions and within the legal bound, yet it was largely ascribed to covert involvement of United States.
The new leaks in Pakistan are rejecting previous narrative, former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his political outfit used to gain popularity among the masses.
Indeed, this was a political move, upon losing the majority in Parliament and a strategy to regain or come back.
Practically, Imran remained closer to Trump administration ever since he became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 2018.
On a directive of President Trump he persuaded Afghan Taliban for a negotiation with US. As a result of this Pakistani effort and persuasions of Afghan Taliban a deal was arrived between Afghan Taliban and United States on February 29, 2020.
On the side-lines of United Nations General Assembly Session, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif had meeting with US President Joe Biden and other US officials.
US president promised Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif for help in the wake of massive floods, Pakistan is confronting since last over one month.
So much so US provided $30 million to support the flood affected people. Lately, Washington has extended the service payments on $132 million of Pakistan’s debt since Pakistan is facing the economic crisis exacerbated by devastating floods.
In last week of September 2022, Pakistani Foreign Minister visited US and had meetings with key officials of the super power with a positive indication that, both sides are ready to re-start their bilateral relationship which were derailed in 2015, at the decisive phase of global war on terror once Washington refused to pay the Coalition Support Find (CSF) to Pakistan without quoting logical reasons.
In a way, US abandoned Pakistan at the conclusive phase of US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It had to once again request Pakistan for its final withdrawal from Afghanistan in July-August 2021 which Pakistan happily accepted and supported the putt-out of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, once Kabul’s control was being handed over to Taliban.
Army Chief Gen Bajwa is also visiting US in the first week of October 2022 and it is likely to discuss the issues related to security and changing geopolitical situation in the region.
In the wake changing geopolitical interests of major powers and Russia-Ukraine war, there is an overt attempt by US policy planners to reset Pak-US relationship by re-engaging Pakistan.
Nevertheless, US understands that, Pak-US relationships are facing some new realities and changed situation in Pakistan, owing to abovementioned regime-change debate.
Nevertheless, there have been many ups and downs in the bilateral relationship of Pakistan and US.
Mostly, US has been the beneficiary of its relationship with Pakistan and unconnected Pakistan once it no longer needed it with a proviso to come once it needs again!
In fact, this aspect has deeply impacted the feeling of Pakistanis and they feel that Washington has betrayed Islamabad many times in the bilateral history of both countries.
While there are serious efforts under-going for a rapprochement between Pakistan and United States, both need to be clear about the future prospects of their bilateral relationship at regional and global level.
The reservations of Pakistani masses and its intellectuals must be addressed by US and there should not be any further betrayal.
In the wake of economic crisis in Pakistan, let there be no exploitation for few USD and spare-parts of F-16.
Production of JF-17 Thunder within Pakistan has come up as a great development. In fact in the field of defence and security Pakistan is reaching to its self-sufficiency and independent status, thus need not to be trapped and get into any complexity of dependence and subordination.
Poor Economic situation can be addressed through good economic management and good governance rather through loans and aid.
While on to the road to Washington, Pakistani leadership must ensure that, as a super power US should respect the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan.
Besides, let’s there be no usage of Pakistani geopolitics like 1980s and what has happened after the incident of 9/11.
Pakistan cannot afford repeat of any such episode and disrespect to its national values and integrity.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.