Home Global Village Let’s build a positive ‘transactional relationship’ with the US

Let’s build a positive ‘transactional relationship’ with the US

  • 189
    Shares

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |

U.S Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson will visit Pakistan next week to discuss the US vision for the new South Asia Policy. The confirmation of the visit comes at a time when Washington and Islamabad are enjoying a rare “week of goodwill” in an otherwise fraying relationship. Concomitant to it, in a telephonic conversation with Pakistani premier, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, US Vice President Mike Pence expressed his country’s desire to continue to cooperate against militant outfits.

Both leaders agreed to capitalize upon the positive momentum in ties in the past week. The bonhomie and bromance between the two countries have been glossed by events at the tactical level. The recent drone barrage on the Af-Pak border as a sign of better and enhanced cooperation between the two countries. The drone strikes have killed elements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar including its leader Umer Khorasani and the mastermind of the ghastly attack on the Army Public Peshawar, Umer Mansoor.

Pakistan is and should be genuinely concerned about the strengthening Indo-US strategic ties; the issue has to be expressed through assiduous diplomacy, not by hurling empty threats on behest of borrowed courage from allies up north to pull the plug

The spirit of cooperation, which was hampered by mistrust was renewed last week. The successful rescue of the Coleman-Boyle family through a neat Intelligence-Based Operation (IBO) by the Pakistani forces came at a time when watchers believed that the gulf between the two was widening.

Read more: Was US ready to send special forces inside Pakistan to rescue…

The tiff between the two countries increased when, after the announcement of the new South Asia Policy, Pakistan showed a great deal of grit; it elicited diplomatic support and within days got Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey, speaking against the tried, tested, and ineffective military-heavy policy in Afghanistan. A unified resolve to confront the onslaught, coupled with the fast-diminishing influence of the US in the region, compelled the US to soften its stance as was amplified by the statements of General Mattis and Ambassador David Hale last month.

Chances of a detente looked tenable as Pakistan’s campaign at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) circumambulated around efforts to arrest the rupture in ties. While Pakistan upped the ante against India, it made an effort to engage with the US despite outstanding thorny. Much against the wishes of political opponents and media, the Berkley-qualified premier met Pence on the sidelines of the UNGA. Both agreed to continue the process of engagement. Realizing the importance of healthy Pak-US ties, Abbasi conveyed the US the concerns of the country in a way which exuded the resolve to carry-forward the relationship.

In the Cold-War era, both countries gained a lot from the partnership; the details of which merit another write-up. Beyond the ambit of social media activism and chest-thumping, there is a great room for deft and assiduous diplomacy

However, Pakistan’s constricted appreciation of the nuances of international politics does not help the state engage with other actors at multiple levels. Stuck at zero-sum diplomacy, Pakistan took serious exceptions to General Mattis’ statement which asserted that CPEC passes through the disputed Northern Areas of Pakistan. Seen as a blatant support of the Indian narrative, Pakistan called upon the US to stop looking at the multi-billion dollar project through the prism of India.

Read more: A new arrangement between the US and Pakistan on drone operations?

The US is continually bolstering India in a bid to counter China in its new Great Game in the region; CPEC, being an important corollary of the One Belt One Road initiative is under fire and will be a major obstacle in the Indo-US plan for the region. Pakistan, by virtue of its strategic ties with China, is a major target in the larger scheme of things. Pakistan’s security orientation is India-centric, therefore the Indo-US strategic partnership worries Pakistan immensely.

A Transactional Relationship 

However, given the transactional nature of Pak-US ties, tactical level events have always significantly affected ties for a certain time period; this time it was not a brazen raid inside Pakistan or a case of a US spy shooting Pakistanis in broad daylight but a refreshingly positive episode. The aforementioned rescue of a 5-member US-Canadian family not only won Pakistan accolades from all quarters including President Trump but also gave a plausible method and arrangement for cooperation in a highly volatile environment.

The aforementioned rescue of a 5-member US-Canadian family not only won Pakistan accolades from all quarters including President Trump but also gave a plausible method and arrangement for cooperation in a highly volatile environment

Pakistan and the US cooperated during the operation, for the US provided the Pakistani forces actionable intelligence. The dissemination of timely and actionable intelligence has always been sought for by the Pakistani Army; the effectiveness of such a mechanism was there for all to see in the IBO which led to the rescue of the Coleman-Boyle family.

Read more: New rules of engagement between US & Pakistan

However, let’s make no mistake about a few things. Pakistan and the US are not strategic partners; in fact, they never were. Bouts of friendliness alternated with those of open disregard. In the Cold-War era, both countries gained a lot from the partnership; the details of which merit another write-up. Beyond the ambit of social media activism and chest-thumping, there is a great room for deft and assiduous diplomacy.

A unified resolve to confront the onslaught, coupled with the fast-diminishing influence of the US in the region, compelled the US to soften its stance as was amplified by the statements of General Mattis and Ambassador David Hale last month

Tweets and video messages are by no means tantamount to the resolution of thorny issues. Whether we like it or not, our arch-nemesis in India has positioned itself in a way that it fits in the US’ strategy for the region. The US can continue to praise and court Pakistan while pandering to Indian strategic interests; this is perfectly in-line with the cruelty of international politics. It is upon Pakistan to broaden its worldview and get out of its long-held belief about zero-sum diplomacy.

Read more: Will US accept Pakistan’s offer of joint operations against Haqqani network?

It is important to fathom that events at the tactical level can only be translated into that at higher levels through continuous, robust, meaningful, and constructive engagements. Pakistan is and should be genuinely concerned about the strengthening Indo-US strategic ties; the issue has to be expressed through assiduous diplomacy, not by hurling empty threats on behest of borrowed courage from allies up north to pull the plug. Both countries and the region are in need of a normal and workable relationship, albeit transactional in nature, to continue. Threats and recrimination would be ineffective because Washington and Islamabad do not have the wherewithal to punish each other and get away with the implications.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space.He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs for various national and international platforms. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.


  • 189
    Shares

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.