Traditionally, bi-lateral relationship of the two “frenemies” (United States and Pakistan) has undergone different ups and fusses. Though the ‘war on terror’ opened new horizons of mutual partnership exceeding to a new level, President Donal Trump’s antagonistic approach towards Pakistan soon scattered the brief honeymoon period of good relations. Soon after being elected, Trump’s revulsion towards the old ally created an environment of qualm for both sides. The situation further worsened with the announcement of South Asian policy in August 2017.
Despite these shortcomings, the US has always been yelling in favor of democracy and peaceful transition of power to democratic institutions in Pakistan. Though, Atlantic power has endorsed dictators in Pakistan in different phases of relationship based on its own interests. Whatever the case had been, the current political situation and suppositions of 25 July elections has left analysts to foresee the future of Pakistan-US relations which are presently not very good. Constant blaming on Pakistan assisting terrorists, diplomatic restraints, matter of FATF and mutual lack of conviction raises many questions.
First of all, it is quite rational to envision the upcoming government’s behavior towards the US. At the same, it is equally important to assume the US response to actions of the upcoming government in Pakistan. The US administrations has shown diplomatic alertness by giving statements of free, fair and transparent electoral process with the hope of working together for peace and stability in the region. But, the things are not as simple as they seem to be. A lot more depends on the upcoming Pakistani government that how it responds to the US policies and intentions while safeguarding own national interest.
Secondly, the root causes of trust deficit need to be identified by both sides via adopting harmonious approach. No one needs to be over confident and over conscious of immediate results because there is nothing easy to get rid of in dealing with the US like super power. Similarly, Pakistan will never allow any power to compromise on its national interests. Pakistan’s international image as portrayed by the US and its other close ally having anti-Pakistan agenda leaving no opportunity to deprecate Pakistan require realistic approach to minimize growing hostile sentiments.
At third place, there is wide spread anti-American sentiments and resentment among masses in Pakistan because of no-recognition of Pakistan’s positive role, sacrifices and favoring India in this region. Religious spheres take the US as anti-Islamic power, general public views it as aggressor and civil-military officials are fed-up with the ‘do more’ mantra. Cutting of aid will leave no positive impact.Strategic alliance with China and recent inclination towards Russia are immediate responses from Pakistan to the changing behavior of the US. Strategic importance of South Asian region will never allow the US to ignore this part of land as is evident from its hegemonic surveillance over here. The US has to admit need of purposeful comprehensive negotiations with Pakistan. Threats, economic chaos creating suspicions will never pay back good upshots. Conversely, it will lead to further worsening of circumstances.
Furthermore, the United States’ apprehensions prevail like heavy clouds. Pakistan must ensure the US its full support to eradicate terrorism from its soil. Diverse sects of society, political parties and military official should unite to detect the problems and devise a comprehensive plan to sustain national peace and stability. Improvement in relations with neighbors can create a softer corner in the US. Importantly, the US should limit its pressurizing tactics on Pakistan. Diplomatic maneuvering and positive international image can do a lot for Pakistan. Both states need each other. There is no alternate for both of them considering the geo-strategic realities except accommodating each other. The US is also cautious of recent entry in main stream politics of previously banned militant organization. This really is a serious issue for Pakistan itself which demands positive role from civil society along with the government to limit their activities to the acceptable level.
Seemingly, things are not as bad as they are being tacitly exposed by international media. Tragedy is that Pakistan has been unproductive to present its case in an appealing way. It is lagging behind in diplomatic performances. The exemption of civil-military collective approach to some extent might be among the reasons behind this horrendous state of affairs along with inactive foreign policy institutions. Economic dependency and low level output in terms of indigenous resources and capabilities is another area which the state of Pakistan suffers through which ultimately defines its foreign policy choices. Internal law and order situation and individual rights preservation can minimize the impacts of external threats in such an ethno-diverse country.
The recent elections are very significant in this perspective because the future of Pakistan’s foreign affairs has to be handled by the upcoming Government. The US is also eyeing on this electoral phase to define its future conduct of bi-lateral relations.Though, there is no major breakthrough expected instantly after the elections in terms of dealing with the super power. But, it definitely will bring out the new spirit and motivation among Pakistanis to handle the major power’s reservations. Ostensibly, there is nothing much different in the election manifestoes of all most all major political parties contesting elections. This is a clear indication of few conjoint apprehensions about policies and treatment of the super power. The tangible steps will define the future road map of Pak-US relations. How the policies are pursued will be seen shortly.
*Fateh Najeeb Bhatti
Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad
M. Phil IR Quaid e Azam University Islamabad