SINCE Donald Trump came to power there are less policy clues but from his inauguration speech to anti-globalisation, anti- internationalism broadly pointed at its nationalistic stance. In all probabilities, Trump’s priorities are inclined towards trade, immigration, terrorism, the Iran nuclear deal and relations with Israel, while the rest of foreign policy including geopolitics or strategic issues are likely to have institutional zest. Now what are the deterministic factors of US-Pakistan relations? It is pertinent to discuss here that Pak-US relations primarily depend upon the Trump’s approach towards war on terrorism and towards Afghanistan. The last Obama Administration lost its way dealing with Pakistan while investing too much in India on the basis of legacy and to counter China which is a major factor in Pak-US relations. The other element is that Obama was in urgency in paving the way for stability in Afghanistan which put too much pressure on Pakistan; consequently Pak-US relations remained strained on three sides.
Contemporary international political scenario, Trump has no such political baggage and will be assisted by a Secretary of Defence who seems to be a thoughtful and well-aware military leader having history of wars and conflicts. Here question arises that will a continuation of Obama’s policy work? In my understanding it will not be easy for US to think up a new good policy in immediate future because its engagement in the region revolving around two categorized ideas- China and war on terrorism in which Afghanistan is crucial part. For first idea US needs India and for the second it needs Pakistan. With the new developments of China and Pakistan on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and other different joint ventures, both India and US are on the same ground to oppose these developments in the region containing China.
Pakistan’s priority to do joint ventures with China or cooperative strategic partnership in particular are to counterbalance India, not against US. So US may not undermine or demoralize Pakistan in prioritising its bilateral relations with India at the cost of China-Pak relations at strategic level. This makes its Pak-US relations very complex and needed to be reconciled. Along these China-Pakistan relations, the unresolved conflict in Afghanistan, continued militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, revolutionary Iran and resurging Russia Pakistan is factor in all this needed to be dealt fairly not discriminately. media reports quoting US officials said that the potential of Trump Administration responses being discussed include expanding US drone attacks, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan eventually may downgrade Pakistan’s status as major non-NATO ally.
Some US officials and experts on the region scoff at the title “Pakistan is not an ally- it’s not North Korea or Iran. But it’s not an ally”, said Bruce Riedel, a Pakistan expert at the Brooking Institute. By this title would be seen to Pakistan as a major blow. Lisa Curtis, senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council co-authored a report with Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington in which they recommended the Trump Administration warn Pakistan, the status could be evoked in six months, according to the February report “Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one”. But it is unclear how seriously the current administration was considering the proposal.
Since the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, Indo-US strategic partnership is growing. Ahead of PM Narendra Modi’ visit to US on June 26, 2017 is yet to be seen as how US current administration takes PM Modi’s concerns against Pakistan as According to times of India that Modi would raise terrorism emanating from Pakistan and US aid to Islamabad. This will be their first meeting, though they have spoken at least three times on Phone starting with the morning after Trump’s stunning election victory in November 2016. It is reported that top issues for both sides are likely to be discussed counter terrorism, followed by H-1B visa system for India and trade for the US. The ongoing US review of its policy on Afghanistan is expected to figure out prominently and India will be keen know if the American are staying there, and for how long?
The current scenario which is witnessing the successes of the development projects such as CPEC bringing the prosperity and peace in Pakistan is not favouring both India and US and they are collectively expressing their opposition. The strategic partnership of both US and India plays a very infertile role in the whole stability and peace in South Asia’s geostrategic fulcrum. Pakistan compelled to seek other strategic partners such as China and Russia but not at the cost of Pak-US relations whereas to counter India’s ambitious regional role with the assistance of US. Critically analysing one can said that India-US relations will be flourishing during Trump whereas Pak-US relations may remain strained to certain extent yet to be seen.
– The writer is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute a think-tank based in Islamabad.