Dr Muhammad Khan
Since an aggressive Trump policy against Pakistan has not worked, United States decided to re-engage Pakistan through diplomatic means. Indeed, Trump’s South Asian policy announcement on August 21, 2017 was a flawed document, which pushed Pakistan to walls, thus a total disinclination from Islamabad in subsequent weeks stunned the policy makers in Washington. In this policy announcement, US tried to promote India in South Asian region as well as at global level. On the Afghan issue too, US tried to isolate Pakistan and promote India. Whereas Taliban is a reality, which 150,000 NATO and US forces could not defeat in last 17 years, Trump tried to miscalculate them. All these policy pronouncement of President Trump backfired in a matter of few months.
Today, there is a strong realisation in Washington for the re-engagement of Islamabad. US realises this re-engagement at multiple levels. In the wake of global realignment, China and Russia are coming up with a new strategic cooperation against an exploitative unipolar system. Both countries consider Pakistan as a linchpin in their strategic alliance. In this regards, though China-Pakistan friendship has been a known reality for decades now. The renewed engagement between Moscow and Islamabad is taking place at a high pace. Very recently, Kh Asif, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan visited Moscow where both countries expressed lot of prospects for future cooperation at strategic, economic and political level. Besides, alongside Russia and China, Pakistan has been working day and night for brokering a peace deal between Afghan Government and Taliban.
After an offer of talks by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Pakistan responded positively for providing assistance in these talks. During a recent round of foreign secretary talks between Pakistan and US at Washington, both sides agreed for peace and stability in Afghanistan. They are ‘stressed the need for restarting the process for reconciliation in Afghanistan.’ Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Ms Tehmina Janjua, declared her talks with US authorities as positive. She said, “The meetings went very well. There’s a sense of positivity that they want to strengthen their relationship with Pakistan. There was also a great deal of focus on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. And both sides welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent peace offer to the Taliban.”
At a time, once US administration desires engagement with Pakistan, people like Senator Larry Pressler is trying to further complicate this bilateral relationship. This senator was the originator of the infamous ‘Pressler Amendment’ of 1985, which necessitated the US president to certify that Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons every year. The amendment called for, in case, U.S president does not issue such certificate, Pakistan cannot not get any foreign aid from the US. Larry Pressler has now written an article in Hindustan Times, appreciating President Trump for bullying Pakistan through his faulty South Asian policy. The article entitled, ‘Thank you President Trump for identifying Pakistan as liars about terrorism’. The discredited senator has perhaps no idea that, how much Pakistan contributed towards combating the menace of terrorism. Just to please India and those opposing good relations between Pakistan and US, the senator who has been on US senate for 22 long years is indeed doing deceit with his own state through misleading articles.
In the post US South Asian policy pronouncement, Pakistan has emphasised Washington to recognise the role of Pakistan in combating the terrorism, whose roots can be traced back to US covert war against former Soviet Union in the decade of 1980s. In fact, the holy worriers turned terrorists have been the US blue boys, Haqqanis being the most favourites. Islamabad has also emphasised Washington to take action against the huge TTP terrorists, currently under the hospitality of Afghan spying network; NDS.
In this regard, there have been some positive indications, where US targeted and killed TTP leadership in bordering areas of Afghanistan. Besides, there have been high level contacts at the diplomatic and military levels, where both countries have reiterated for the continuation of this decade(s) old relations after doing away the misgivings arose over the years owing to intruders like India and writers like Larrey Pressler. Pakistan may not be looking for US financial assistance, the way it needed earlier, however, it certainly desires an equitable and a balance relationship in the South Asian context.
Whereas, Pakistan has multiple options for its future relationship in and around South Asia, its relationship with US constitutes as an important objective of its foreign policy. However, for the US whether it is peace process in Afghanistan or else its strategic and economic objectives in this region, Washington has to rely on Pakistani geopolitics. Indian geopolitics may be important to engage China for the time being. But, on long term basis, India has never proved to be a trusted partner. India is wily state and US strategists understand that. Therefore, this time US policy makers should re-engage Pakistan with a total positivity, taking into considerations the national interests of Pakistan.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.