IT is, perhaps, for the first time in many years that the United States is not repeating the mantra of ‘do more’ and instead praising Pakistan for its sincere cooperation in efforts aimed at restoration of much-needed peace and stability to Afghanistan.
The new approach was highlighted by State Department Spokesperson Ned Price who said during a press briefing that Pakistan has been a “helpful and constructive partner” when it comes to Afghanistan adding their interests go well beyond that and include broader counterterrorism interests and the people-to-people ties that unite our two countries.
This is a realistic assessment of the ties between the two countries and this change in the policy augurs well for building the relationship on a long term and sustainable basis.
Pakistan has always strived for an enduring cooperation and friendship with the United States, which, of course, extended meaningful economic and military cooperation during different phases of the checkered bilateral history.
Pakistan cannot afford to seve or downgrade its ties with the United States as it is the largest trade partner and a source for foreign exchange and investment.
However, there has always been an impression that for Washington the nature of the relationship remained transactional as the US came closer to Islamabad when it needed active collaboration of the country in realization of some of its regional and global objectives and adopted a cold-shouldered attitude when it needed no more cooperation from Pakistan.
The same impression prevailed now when the United States was about to complete withdrawal of its troops in Afghanistan with analysts predicting that once again the world’s only superpower was leaving Pakistan to bear the consequences of the hasty withdrawal and deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
The remarks of the State Department spokesperson are important both in terms of the Afghan issue and the fate of the bilateral ties in the post-withdrawal period.
The comments are a pleasant departure from the past when the United States persisted in its habit of asking Pakistan to do more to facilitate its victory in Afghanistan.
Instead the US believes Pakistan is a ‘helpful and constructive partner’ in Afghanistan and this is not without a reason as it is because of the wholehearted cooperation of Islamabad that the US is completing the withdrawal with complete peace of mind.
Earlier, Pakistan provided valuable cooperation to the US in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and now Islamabad has also repeatedly asserted at the highest level that it has no favourites in Afghanistan.
The two countries have shared interests in finding a politically negotiated solution of the Afghan quagmire as regional interests of both Pakistan and the United States can only be served if there was normalcy and stability in Afghanistan.
The prospects of a peaceful settlement brightened on Thursday with the Taliban political office insisting that the group did not seek to seize power in Afghanistan militarily.
The US has also hinted that it would continue cooperation with Pakistan in the post-withdrawal period.
This declaration would surely be received with sense of satisfaction by Pakistani leadership as it is in line with the thinking of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who, in a recent interview with the New York Times proposed developing what he described as an even-handed relationship with the US after its impending withdrawal from war-torn Afghanistan premised on the geo-economic paradigm which forms the framework for Pakistan’s new multi-polar grand strategy.
The Prime Minister is also absolutely clear on future relationship with the United States as he recently declared that Islamabad was ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan with Washington because both the countries wanted stability, development and denial of terrorists’ havens there.
The clear-headed policy would go a long way in convincing the United States to base the bilateral ties on the universally acknowledged sovereign equality basis, giving way for geo-economics (and not geo-politics), which is the desire of Pakistan.
Such a policy would also send the right kind of message to the people of Pakistan, who have been skeptical of the US treatment of Pakistan despite its immense contribution to further the cause that is championed by the United States.
The United States ought to discard the element of discrimination in its relationship with Pakistan whether it is the issue of nuclear programme/nuclear cooperation or pressuring Islamabad from the platform of FATF.