Are Islamabad & Washington all set to take the relationship to another level?

Washington

News Analysis |

Pakistan and the US have agreed to carry forward the positive momentum in ties by enhancing high-level interactions and counterterrorism cooperation. This was enunciated in a telephonic conversation between US Vice President Mike Pence and Pakistani PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Wednesday.

“The two leaders agreed to maintain high-level engagements to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest,” the Prime Minister Office said in a statement on Wednesday. Pence’s phone call comes a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called PM Abbasi. The US vice president said that his country wants to further build this relationship.

In fact, observers believed that Pakistan’s UNGA campaign revolved around the idea of improving ties with Washington while explaining its legitimate concerns

This comes on the heels of a spate of good gestures and soft stances from both sides during the last one week. The successful rescue of the Coleman-Boyle family by the Pakistan Army has brought about a refreshing breather in the otherwise hostile relations between the two countries. President Trump, who had berated Pakistan in his policy speech on 21st August, lauded Pakistan for its alacrity in the operation and later took to Twitter to express his satisfaction with the renewed cooperation with Pakistan.

Read more: Changing mood in Washington towards Pakistan

Analysts see the recent drone barrage on the Af-Pak border as a sign of better cooperation between the two countries. The drone strikes have killed elements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar including the mastermind of the gruesome on the Army Public Peshawar, Umer Mansoor.

Pence thanked the government of Pakistan and praised the professionalism of the Army and the intelligence agencies for the swift response and safe recovery of the US national Caitlin Coleman, her husband Joshua Boyle and their three children

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that India could help the US keep an eye on Pakistan as President Donald Trump has “taken a tougher approach to Islamabad harboring terrorists”. Noting that Trump recently announced a new strategy for combating terrorism in Afghanistan and South Asia, Haley said one of the pillars of that strategy is the development of America’s strategic partnership with India.

“America’s overriding interests in Afghanistan and throughout South Asia are to eliminate terrorist safe havens that threaten us. And to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, we will use all the elements of our national power economic diplomatic and military to pursue these goals,” was her statement. However, analysts in Pakistan have labeled this statement as made in a private capacity rather than an official one.

Read more: Washington’s good terrorists, bad Terrorists policy: Selling Satans as saviors

More Goodwill

Pence thanked Pakistan for rescuing the Coleman-Boyle family. According to the statement released by the PM Office, “Pence thanked the government of Pakistan and praised the professionalism of the Army and the intelligence agencies for the swift response and safe recovery of the US national Caitlin Coleman, her husband Joshua Boyle and their three children.”

The two countries, cognizant of the need for better ties made efforts to mend fences last month. Both Abbasi and Pence met on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York and agreed to engage with each other. In fact, observers believed that Pakistan’s UNGA campaign revolved around the idea of improving ties with Washington while explaining its legitimate concerns. However, soon hopes of further improvement were dealt a severe blow when the US secretary of Defense, James Mattis ratified the Indian position on CPEC.

Watchers of the region are mindful of the growing Indo-US strategic relationship, especially in the field of defense. They believe that as long as the US will bolster India in a bid to counter China, Pakistan will show its consternation and the mistrust will continue

The “week of goodwill”, despite being a positive epoch in the fraying relationship, is being deemed as nothing more than a breather at the tactical level. However, analysts are optimistic that a cooperative mechanism can be devised which will allow both countries to bring back a semblance of normalcy in their dealings.

Read more: “Mad Dog” Mattis Barks About CPEC And Endangers NATO’s Afghan Caravan

Abbasi extended an invitation to Pence to visit Pakistan which he accepted. Also, the 59-year old reiterated Pakistan’s willingness to act on actionable intelligence given by the US. The details conversation were also disseminated by Washington. The call was first listed in the White House daily schedule. It read: “the Vice President will participate in a phone call with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of Pakistan.” This amplified the view that the call was important.

Pence, according to the statement of the White House said that cooperation against militant groups must be continued. The rescue operation and the recent drone strikes have accentuated the importance of treading along and doing more together as opposed to doing things unilaterally. However, pundits warn against reposing hopes out of the series of tactical level events.

Abbasi extended an invitation to Pence to visit Pakistan which he accepted. Also, the 59-year old reiterated Pakistan’s willingness to act on actionable intelligence given by the US. The details conversation were also disseminated by Washington

However, Pence recalled his meeting with Abbasi in New York last month. The statement read: “Just as he did during the meeting the two had in New York last month, the Vice President again discussed ways that Pakistan could work with the United States and others to bolster stability and security for all in South Asia.”

Read more: New rules of engagement between US & Pakistan

Watchers of the region are mindful of the growing Indo-US strategic relationship, especially in the field of defense. They believe that as long as the US will bolster India in a bid to counter China, Pakistan will show its consternation and the mistrust will continue. However, the recent positive happenings will certainly help to keep the transactional nature of ties alive and kicking. As things stand, both countries are in need of this transactional and tactical relationship.

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