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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pence, Abbasi meeting: What was the real agenda?

News Analysis |

Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met U.S Vice President Mike Pence in Washington in what was called as a meeting held at Pakistan’s request. Apart from Michael Cutrone, advisor to Vice President on the affairs of South-Asia, no other official accompanied both leaders. Prime Minister Abbasi re-established Pakistan’s stand on the security and bilateral ties with Afghanistan. He assured on part of Pakistan’s government and institutions that peace in the neighboring countries especially in Afghanistan is a top priority right now. Surprisingly, the focus of Vice President Mike Pence was not just Pakistan’s role in assisting the US in curbing the recent surge of Afghan Taliban but also the growing influence of China within Pakistan.

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However, PM Abbasi assured him that Pakistan’s relations with China are not hostile toward the US whatsoever and therefore should not be the cause of concern for Washington. He met Congressman Ted Yoho, chairman of the House Committee on Asia and the Pacific who seemed to have shared the same concerns as Pence did over Pakistan’s relations with China. It is believed that the meeting between Mike Pence and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is the continuation of commitment after the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2017. Then, both the sides agreed to take forward the relations by mean of bilateral dialogues and trust-building measures.

Strained relationship between the two allies

The ties between historic allies took a sharp turn in August 2017 when President Donald Trump announced his “New South Asia Policy”. Pakistan in the past had stated at the international as well as at the diplomatic and military level that India is orchestrating insurgency in Pakistan via Afghan soil. Since two countries, Pakistan and US, have been together for decades, Pakistan had expected that its concerns over the increasing role of India will be addressed but reversed happened. In its New South Asia Policy, President Trump asked India to aid his country to bring its Afghan campaign to a reasonable and acceptable conclusion.

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The response toward the policy was ferocious from both the government and military top guns of Pakistan. Many analysts termed the relations to be standing at an all-time low in the entire history of US-Pak relations. But after the successful raid by the Pakistan Army which resulted in the rescue of an American-Canadian couple, things started to proceed in bringing the relations back from the miserable state they were in. Recently several military and civil US officials have accepted and applauded “positive steps” which Pakistan has taken in order to bring sustainable peace in Afghanistan; this meeting is said to be the appreciation of the efforts which the US believes Pakistan has started to commence.

US possessive of Pakistan’s growing relationships with Iran and Russia?

Iranian Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, recently, on a visit to Pakistan asked the country to join Iran in the Chabahar port venture. This invitation can be only termed as the symbolic diplomatic rhetoric on part of Iran as it is widely understood that it will be something completely unacceptable for India, the biggest investor in Chabahar. But one thing evident and realized in Washington is the cozy relations which both Pakistan and Russia are in the process of building right now. Russia has been one of the biggest weapon suppliers to Iran and both the countries share a history of good bilateral relations. A nexus which, at the moment, might seem implausible in the form of Russia, Pakistan and Iran will be disastrous for US interests in the region. This farfetched possibility could also be one of the reasons why the US would definitely want to mend its ties with Pakistan.

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Pakistan’s role for stabilization in Afghanistan cardinal

Above all, every possible way toward peace process in Afghanistan crosses Pakistan one way or another. No matter how much the US strengthens its relations with everyone in South East Asia; it will have to ultimately turn toward Pakistan whenever it will be about Afghanistan. After Iraq and Afghanistan, an adventure with a nuclear state is simply out of question. The best US could do in terms of unilateral action is to go in an occasional hot pursuit in loosely held tribal areas where the chances of a direct face-off with Pakistan Army is minimum or drone strikes. But both these steps will actually do more harm than good in the Afghan peace process. Apart from this, the only way out is diplomacy and dialogue, and the US will have to reconsider its position vis a vis Pakistan.