Sooner or later a breakthrough is expected in the Pak-US ambiguous relationship touching the lowest point during Trump administration. There is much to talk and perceive about the Foreign Minister’s recent visit to the United States. Surely, certain impediments have cleared with the second high level officials encounter within a month’s time. Universal fact of “No one can foretell the details in a day, we can only hope”, is relevant here. Pompeo’s short trip to Pakistan reciprocated Shah Mehmood’s keenness to discuss obstructing issues during his recent UNGA annual session participation and diverse engagements in the United States.
Before meetings with the US National Security Advisor and Secretary of States, Qureshi raised a few important issues in his UNGA address including Indian Held Kashmir, Indian tyrannies in South Asia, indifference of international community to end miseries of Muslims across the globe and contemporary regional and international trends. Consequently, it was expected that Pakistan would secure the US pledge to play a positive role in South Asian affairs to a considerable level. Moreover, India declining Pakistan’s sincere offer to end all bi-lateral disputes via negotiations has given Pakistan moral and diplomatic advantage over India. Furthermore, Indian exasperating intimidations, clandestine developments in Indian ocean and the region and Sushma’s discourteous behavior in the US trying to avoid communiqué with Pakistani counterpart, is a vibrant signal of old-style Indian narrow-mindedness. Notwithstanding being a close strategic ally of India, the US as a responsible super power should not turn a blind eye in such matters.
A diverse range of issues came under discussions during Qureshi’s meeting with the US National Security Advisor John Bolton followed by almost 40 minutes one on one meeting with Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State. According to media reports, both sides discussed situation in Afghanistan, ongoing peace process, China’s role in South Asia and ways to bridge rifts in bi-lateral relations. The US was curious about increasing role of China in Pakistan while Pakistan informed the US officials about the increasing role of India in Afghanistan dangerous for Pakistan and regional peace. Terrorist’s hideouts and involvement of Taliban in Afghanistan peace process also came under discussions.
Pakistan is hoping a lot from this development. Nevertheless, there has been no joint press briefing to confirm the rapprochement details including revival of aid but the good gestures shown by both sides are surely confidence building measure to put the depleting relations on track. The US has realized the need of Pakistan for resolving the Afghan dispute. In addition, it has recognized that Pakistan is the key player to convince the Taliban leaders to come to the negotiation table. The apprehension that Pakistan must not be overlooked amid increasing involvement of China in Pakistan’s strategic circles is very vital concern of the US in changing scenario of regional geo-strategic trends in South Asia. Conversely, Pakistan cannot repudiate the US importance for securing interests in South Asia in the longer run based on its in-depth and year’s long penetration in this very region’s policy spheres being a global watch dog and significant too. It had made clear to the US of apparent threats on Western as well as Eastern borders.
Strategic importance of Pakistan is also very crucial for the US to achieve its targets in this region especially after being involved in Afghanistan. It looks as if finally the US has realized that there is no hope for peace within Afghanistan and peaceful withdrawal from there. The counter narrative of Trump administration has not worked yet to pressurize Pakistan for desirable results. This is a high time for both sides to culminate all slip-ups. The proposed reciprocal release of Shakil Afridi and Dr. Afia is a very good initiative to revive mutual confidence. Even though, things are not so simple as they may seem to be, the palpable will can do a lot. One very important thing which Pakistan should not compromise on its standing vis-à-vis its arch-rival i.e., India. A beam of hope has emerged finally in discussion with the US officials that the Afghanistan oriented interests of India must be adhered to in order to move forward. Nonetheless, it should also not be ignored that India is a far bigger country than Pakistan. Its Diaspora, soft power image and cultural diversity in line with economic capacity have always been an attraction giving it priority over Pakistan. The only option for Pakistan is to rely on its own muscle and compliance with changing geo-strategic and geo-economic realities in order to counter balance any sort of Indian monopoly in this volatile region of South Asia.
In a nutshell, it is better hoped that ongoing revival of bi-lateral relations with the super power must be charted with comprehensive tactics both on diplomatic and economic front. Though, the bi-lateral relationship has always been unpredictable but the kind of affirmations and efforts that Pakistan is making in recent engagements with the US are predicted to be productive sooner or later. The international politics is all about gaining maximum possible out of minimum but it should not be at the cost of national interests and prestige. It should be profoundly assumed that the Pakistani officials are well aware of this fact.
*Fateh Najeeb Bhatti, Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad, M. Phil IR Quaid e Azam University Islamabad