Future of Pakistan-US relations
ON 19 February, US President Joe Biden participated virtually in a G-7 meeting and gave his first international speech at the 2021 Munich Security Conference.
While Biden did not address the future of Pakistan-U.S. relations, his remarks have implications for those relations.
He proclaimed that “We’re at an inflection point between those who argue, given all the challenges we face…that autocracy is the best path forward, they argue, and those who understand that democracy is essential – essential to meeting those challenges.”
Biden went on to amplify, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.
We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to revitalize the promise of the future.”
The Biden Administration will undoubtedly work to move Pakistan more in the democratic direction.
The good news is that the Imran Khan Administration has already made some progress in making Pakistan more democratic.
As Shahbaz Gill, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication, noted in a Twitter posting in early February, Pakistan jumped three places to the 105th position on the 2020 Democracy Index recently released by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Pakistan has a long-standing history of economic alignment with and strategic investment from China. It is not going to break those ties.
But, as Moeed Yusuf, National Security Advisor and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security and Strategic Policy indicated in a Conversation on US-Pakistan Relations at the Wilson Center on January 21, the day after Biden was inaugurated, it is open to modifying them.
In that conversation, Yusuf proposed the following, ‘The first thing we want to talk about is investment partnerships.
This conversation about CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is not always positive in Washington – how about an American reprocessing zone? How about American companies coming, investing money, reprocessing for export and sending wherever they want.
How about doing things economically where there can be Pakistan-U.S. China co-investment?”
For a variety of reasons, including other priorities such as the multiple crises created by Covid-19, the Biden team has not yet set out the policy parameters for its relationship with Pakistan.Yusuf’s proposal will certainly be given due consideration when that is done.
Two other proposals that will probably be reviewed are recommendations for a “new Pakistan policy” put forward through the Atlantic Council by Vali R.
Nasir, Professor of international affair at Johns Hopkins University and Shamila N Chaudhary, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a paper from Pakistan titled Pak-Americana: Ushering in a New Era for the Pakistan US Relationship authored by Dr Syed Mohammad Ali, Asad Rafi, and Mosharraf Zaidi.
These two publications observe that the times are changing for both Pakistan and the US and because of that it is a propitious moment to forge a new relationship in which the US invests more heavily in Pakistan and Pakistan builds new bridges with the US.
Among other things, Nasir and Chaudhary suggest that Pakistan’s trade agreement with China makes it an ideal re-exporting hub.
The US could build manufacturing facilities in Pakistan, add value to the products there, and sell them to the Chinese market as exports. The “best asset” each country has is its people.
There should be a continued exchange through groups such as Pakistani Fulbright scholar recipients and promotion of US business to Pakistani markets.
Ali, Rafi and Zaidi also focus on trade, economic growth and people-to-people recommendations in their key drivers for creating a “new era”.
Their other drivers include:Deepening and expanding the counterterrorism cooperation between the US and Pakistan to defeat global terrorism.
Making climate change a priority because John Kerry, President Biden’s Special Envoy understands Pakistan and Prime Minister Khan has a strong record on climate change.
By contrast, President Biden comes into his leadership role with probably a deeper understanding of Pakistan, than any previous US President.
Because of this and the experts around him, the Biden Administration brings the promise of interacting productively with their counterparts in Prime Minister Khan’s Administration to develop new avenues for Pakistan US partnership and to work collaboratively to craft mutually acceptable solutions in problematic areas.
—The writer is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC.