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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Diplomatic breakthrough as Pakistan succeeds in mending ties with US

NSA Moeed Yusuf's recent participation in the Geneva Summit is a diplomatic breakthrough for both US and Pakistan. The US can no longer ignore Pakistan's important role and has decided to work with Pakistan by entering into another set of transactional relations.

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For the first time, in a sign of a breakthrough, Pakistan and the Biden Administration in the United States have expressed readiness for cooperation and better relations to give a new dimension to bilateral ties. The pledge preceded a discomfiture in relations between the two countries which could also be described as strained.

A flurry of diplomatic interactions in the last few days took place as the US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan and Pakistan’s Special Assistant for National Security Moeed Yusuf met in Geneva and issued a joint statement saying they agreed to pursue practical cooperation.

Read more: Moeed Yusuf appointed as Pakistan’s National Security Advisor

A tangible convergence is ofcourse on post-Afghanistan relations and the US needs in the region to stay engaged. Short of any basing rights, the US will be allowed to use Pakistan’s air space and given ground access. This was the first high-level direct contact between the two countries since the new Pentagon took over under the new Biden Administration.

The Foreign Secretary Antony J. Blinken has previously spoken twice with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa. Similarly, Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin has also held discussions with Army Chief Gen Bajwa.

However, so far there has been no contact between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Imran Khan. In addition, Pakistan was not initially invited to the Climate Change Summit, and it led to the perception that the relations were strained. But Pakistan continued to insist on enhancing bilateral ties and cooperation.

Read more: Pakistan not invited to Biden’s virtual climate summit

The key agenda

Undoubtedly bilateral relations were a key item on the agenda of the NSA’s Geneva Summit, but other issues affecting relations, including India, Afghanistan, and economic cooperation, were also discussed. Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf presumably complained about the early days, that the new US administration was not giving Pakistan enough attention and regard.

It must have been transpired and also countered by his US counterpart as per the US talking points that the Covid-19 epidemic was consuming the administration so the administration was focusing more on internal affairs. Discussions between the two leaders from Pakistan and the US were described as “positive” for improving relations. The US seeks help from neighboring countries, especially Pakistan, for Afghan stability.

Read more: Op-ed: What does the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan mean for Pakistan?

A terse readout issued by the US National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horn said the two leaders discussed a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual interest. It was agreed to discuss ways to advance practical cooperation and to continue further discussions.

Moeed Yusuf on his Twitter said, “I was happy to meet US NSA, Jack Sullivan. Pakistan and the US delegations have positive discussions on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest,” and he also added that the two sides agreed to continue working to expand cooperation in bilateral relations.

Anyway, as the US and Pakistan relations seem to be starting to move on a positive trajectory, further exchanges between the two sides are expected in the near future.

Pakistan’s strategic shift

As the US is about to be militarily disengaged from Afghanistan, it continues to operate regionally to project power by retaining CT capability. Pakistan is also shifting its posture on Afghanistan and the region.

In a surprise strategic shift, Islamabad is now opposed to total control of the Taliban in Afghanistan and is about to enter into a strategic security agreement with the Ghani government.

Fearing spillover of terrorism from Afghanistan, Pakistan is very mindful of its national security imperative and to solidify it is pushing for meaningful intra-Afghan dialogue and equally leveraging the Taliban to coopt Afghans in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also taken on board China, Russia, and Iran and assured them that their core interest will be protected in Afghanistan.

Read more: Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan push Taliban for peace

Indeed Pakistan’s strategic outlook, international relations, and foreign policy posture are very much the by-product of the Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa’s vision and efforts encapsulated in “Bajwa Doctrine”. As a result, Pakistan is back in the regional game and has mended relations with the Biden Administration, after mending fences with Saudi Arabia and UAE.

However, India is left isolated so Delhi has launched a massive effort to convince the US that Pakistan is not sincere and it is working for Kabul to be taken over by the Taliban. India is left alone even by Russia and Iran.

Read more: Indian propaganda exposed and defeated by Pakistan’s govt

It is now the US responsibility to ensure India is prevented from playing any spoiling role in Afghanistan. As of now, the Biden Administration has swallowed its pride and has decided to work with Pakistan by entering into another set of transactional relations.

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Baluchistan, an ex-advisor to the Baluchistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.