The post Pompeo’s visit atmosphere is
another vivid example of how relation
ship between Pakistan and US could ebb and flow. How it could ascend and descend in a given environments. Its past is replete of such examples. Over last one year, both countries have seen ominous turbulence in their relations however, seems to have come out from a situation as of in eye of the storm to oasis of calm. The visit of Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State to Pakistan was the ice breaker as being widely considered. PM Imran Khan is optimistic about reset in relations between two countries. Pompeo is upbeat and hopeful; foundation that we laid today will set the conditions for continued success as we start to move forward. FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi is overly exuberant and keen albeit unnecessarily which he needs to check urgently for sake of the country and own; atmosphere that saw today was cordial because US is also now reflecting on their way forward and strategies. The body language of others and unease observed across the border among Indians also substantiate above expressions. There is no love lost between countries particularly, between those which have rocky, frosty and trouble prone relations. It is national interests, assessed in cold logic which guide their thought and action.
One year earlier, it was fuming Trump who charged Pakistan for harboring terrorists that US is fighting in Afghanistan while dishing out US South Asia policy. Pakistan has to change and change immediately. Contrarily, it has to pay price. US wanted from Pakistan to rein back Afghan Taliban with same zeal and vigor with which it has fought against Pakistan specific terrorists. Besides, he also jettisoned his plan of withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, announced during his presidential election campaign while taking shelter behind desk at Oval office as things looked different from there. He categorically said, US would stay in Afghanistan as consequences of rapid exit are predictable and unacceptable, leaving a vacuum that terrorists would fill instantly. He vowed fanatically not to talk with Taliban until a major military effort is successful against them. It implied seeking peace on battlefield. At another occasion, he was even harsher, no talk until we finish what have to finish. This was the mindset with which much hyped South Asia Policy was kick started. Within just one year and with no major setback to its presence in region, US is showing understanding and consideration. It appears more deferential, civil and conversational in its tone and tenor.
Now approach is no more unilateral rather bilateral; it is time for both countries to begin to deliver on their joint commitments. US has also shown consent for direct talk between Taliban and its proxy Afghan Government. This certainly leave one guessing about what impelled US for change of heart, particularly towards Pakistan. It is being viewed that constrained by a number of odds, now US wants to seek peace in Afghanistan through combination of military and diplomatic pressures to force Taliban to work with government in Kabul to restore peace in Afghanistan with ultimate purpose of paving way for itself to withdraw from there honorably, not ignominiously. For both purposes, US needs Pakistan active support. From the beginning when US tried to impose its South Asia Policy on Pakistan, Pakistan made no secret of its intentions not to do anything which is contraband to its national interests. No Do More was the rejoinder. Now Pakistan has government under Imran Khan; only politician in Pakistan who was not under US influence as stated by Wikileaks. He would not lay back as his spineless predecessors used to do. Instead he would lead from front with nation in lockstep. He has declared unequivocally that Pakistan would not indulge in a war of others. Foreign policy would be rooted first and last in national interests hence, Pakistan would only help US to get out its Afghan imbroglio to an extent which does not clash with its national interests.
Besides, Pakistan has limited influence on Taliban. This leaves Afghan situation a lesser reason for Pompeo’s glee nevertheless, another aspect catches one’s eyes in this regard; a remarks of US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Afairs Randall G Schriver, just two days prior to pompeo’s visit while responding to a question about economy of Pakistan. He does not have a good answer on economic difficulties and challenges that Pakistan finds itself in. what he could say is if one looks at other examples where countries went all-in or largely- in with China, results have not been particularly good. There has been an erosion of sovereignty and an erosion of control. US is willing to help Pakistan if they want to talk about a way out of that or want to talk about ways to strengthen their economy. He is sure, they would be open to that in trying to work with Pakistan bilaterally or through international institutions – to try to get them on a better path. Apart from this, he also expressed serious US concerns about Pakistan’s growing economic ties with China. It is hard to desist a thought that probably US is seeing an opportunity in simmering discontent about some aspects of CPEC. This calls for serious attention of Pakistan and China both to resolve misgivings of any kind about CPEC.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.