Strategic uplift in Pak-US bilateral ties

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Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

A calm and cool, poised and determined weaving of neo-bilateralism between Washington and Islamabad began with the Trump-Khan meeting (July 22) in the White House. However, to some of us this attempt at connecting the disconnect, could have been a normal development while for some of us, it must have had been above normal but certainly for the futurists, the said meeting seems to have reset a happy go-partnership between the two states — the US and Pakistan. After a lull of four years, the present attempt — at morphing the stalled relations beyond the blame game or the zero-sum game — seems successful. The bright light of the said meeting comes from the window of peace mediation on Kashmir to be opened up by President Trump. The overall result of the PM visit remains to deliver a multi-dimensional impact in terms of bilateral cooperation, regional cooperation and international cooperation.
“We have seen a new beginning; a new chapter is being opened,” FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at a press conference in Washington. “We should take this positively and hope that things will get better,” he said, adding that Pakistan was focused on “economic diplomacy” and wanted to boost trade with the US. According to a US-based Pakistani analyst, regardless of whether Modi solicited the mediation or not, the mention of Kashmir seems a big win for Pakistan since it will create pressure on the Modi Government. According to a US’ South Asian expert Michael Kugelman, ‘’Washington’s aim was to pull out all the stops and showcase its appreciation to Pakistan for the help that Islamabad has provided in Afghanistan over the last year. And that is what it did, with Pakistan clearly grateful for how Khan was treated by his American hosts’’. But most positively, the present mindset in Washington swings towards a new US-Pak partnership based on the notion of mutual interest.
First, the bilateral cooperation: Consequently, a relationship that had taken a deep plunge in previous months has resurfaced, and it now has the opportunity to be reenergized. The future developments will nevertheless help determine the relationship’s trajectory in the aftermath of this meeting. President Trump also said that the US wants to invest in Pakistan and sees great trade opportunities there. He also hoped about expanding trade “10, 20 times”. President Trump expressed the view that both the counties have not yet explored true opportunities. Resetting the military disconnect: Gen Qamar Javed interacted with US top military leadership during his visit to the Pentagon. The Army Chief had a discussion session with Acting Secretary of Defence Richard V. Spencer and CJCS. Regional security situation including Afghan peace process was discussed. Secretary and CJCS acknowledged contribution of Pakistan Army in the war against terrorism and role towards the Afghan peace process. COAS also met Chief of Staff US Army General Mark A Milley. Matters vis-à-vis regional security and bilateral military cooperation were discussed.
Second, the regional perspective: This remains an indisputable fact that it is the Afghan issue that Pakistan has been ready to assume a vital role for the US Government and has become a vital player within the international arena. Washington wants more recipe of cooperation from Islamabad in the Afghanistan peace process. According to Reuters, that includes a sustained crackdown on militants and terrorists within its borders, as well as help to “pressure the Taliban into a permanent ceasefire and participation in inter-Afghan negotiations that would include the Afghan government. Afghanistan was undoubtedly a core component of Trump’s meeting with Khan. For Washington, getting Islamabad to step up its assistance in current peace talks with the Taliban is a prime objective.
As for China, Obviously, Beijing may largely benefit from better relations between Islamabad and Washington. Chinese officials have regularly counselled their Pakistani counterparts to preserve ties with the US, even in the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden raid, which humiliated Pakistan. Deep mutual trust underpins the China-Pakistan relationship, so renewed communication between Islamabad and Washington is unlikely to make Beijing anxious – although China’s hand has been strengthened by their strained relations in the past. A US-Pakistan “reset” may ease pressure on Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force and other international forums. Likewise, renewed aid and investment would not only improve stability in Pakistan and reduce Islamabad’s dependence on Beijing, but it will also make Chinese aid and investment in Pakistan – worth billions of dollars – more sustainable.
As for the US-Iranian row, both the United States and Pakistan will not likely allow a further downplay in bilateral relations and will pragmatically attempt to patch up their differences. It thus seems more plausible to attach symbolic significance to the recent warming in the relationship between Pakistan and Iran. Though Pakistan is genuinely interested in maintaining its closer relations with Iran because of our geographical affinity, including energy cooperation with Iran, it is unlikely that Islamabad will seek this relationship at the expense of its relations with Washington.
Thirdly and most significantly, the global economic perspective and the Bretton Woods system: “I was pleased to meet Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan today in Washington, DC. We discussed recent economic developments and the implementation of the authority’s economic reform programme supported by the IMF, “Lipton said in a statement issued by the IMF. Premier Khan also met World Bank President David Malpass at the Pakistani Embassy. On Friday, “The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for Technical Security Team (TST) in continued support of the F-16 program for an estimated cost of USD 125 million,” the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement. To put objectively, the current visit –by Pakistan’s Premier Imran Khan and the COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to the US—seems to have positively propelled the future direction of Pak-US relationship in the right direction significantly by restoring the trust between Washington and Islamabad.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.

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