| Welcome to Global Village Space

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

US-Pakistan relations: Will there be a shift?

Abdul Rahman Malik |

With the changing geo-strategic situation Donald Trump, even after this twitter blitz, has finally turned towards Pakistan to get rid of Afghan mess. This moment needs to be understood. Trump now seeks Islamabad’s help in influencing the Taliban to bring them to the negotiating table. This comes at a time when the Russia Peace Talks, in Moscow, involving participation of all stakeholders including insurgent Taliban leadership and Afghanistan Peace Council (APC) have failed to reach an agreement.

US-Pakistan relations have always been overcast with mistrust but this time it looks like a new beginning with new terms of engagement with a new Government in Pakistan. Imran Khan in his exclusive interview with Laly Weymouth of Washington Post has made it clear that Pakistan is no more a hired gun and will not fight anyone’s war.

Thanks to Saudis and China helping Pakistan to fix the issue of balance payments that alignment towards alternative powers might have prompted the US to change its stance.

PM Khan has reiterated that the Peace in Afghanistan is in favor of Pakistan. The Foreign Office has already drafted a reply to Trump’s letter and has presented that to Prime Minister Khan for approval. Most analysts and political pundits have termed the developments so far as positive and it looks that this time around Trump administration may be serious in its desire to engage with Pakistan.

The incoming head of US central command, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, has also said that he will engage with Pakistan on priority basis as directed by the US president. US wants to engage in direct talks with the Taliban, it seeks to bring them to negotiating table to devise a “power sharing formula” with some amendments in the Afghan constitution that can bring Taliban into a new Kabul government.

With Pakistani initiative of Kartarpur Corridor opening to facilitate the Sikh Pilgrims of India, the recent shift in US-Pakistan relations can be considered as “watershed moments” for both Pakistan and the US. Both countries can work together to bring normalcy in Afghanistan; US and Pakistan have suffered a lot in so-called war on terror and Pakistan has done a lot more than any other US ally.

Read more: Can Pak-US ties be reconfigured amid hardened positions?

Pakistan played a vital role in post 9/11 situation as it facilitated the US by giving her air, ground and sea communication channels and supported the US initiative for regime change in Afghanistan. Pakistan, since then, suffered unprecedented military and civilian sacrifices and is facing an economic crisis for becoming a front line state in the US led War on terror that adversely affected its Investment and Trade opportunities.

Donald Trump’s irresponsible Twitter tirade against Pakistan – blaming that despite paying millions of rupees in security aid, Pakistan has deceived the US or did not do the damn thing – had created widespread disappointment since Pakistan, its allies and most in the world community are well aware that Pakistan has suffered a lot for being a US ally.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is yet another trade route that will benefit Afghanistan if the peace agreement reaches between the Taliban and the Afghan Government. 

Increasing US alignment towards India and signing various trade agreements with Modi Regime, have also created a deep sense of disappointment amongst the Civil and Military leadership of Pakistan. It is felt that despite using Pakistan both as a “hired gun” and later “scapegoat” for failures in Afghanistan now salt is being rubbed on Pakistani wounds by favoring its arch-rival, India, that has been patronizing the separatist movements in the province of Baluchistan (while Pakistan was busy supporting the US war effort in Afghanistan)

Kalbhushan Yadav, Indian intelligence officer captured from Baluchistan, had publicly confessed and explained how Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) carried out various terrorist activities within Pakistan to bring instability through violence.

If things were even half rational then the Trump administration should have been advised by various think-tanks and political and diplomatic circles that Pakistan that mainly fought the US war on terror as an important ally and is still bearing the brunt of Terrorist attacks, is now left out when it comes to the development options or trade relations and it needs active US support to fix its balance of payment problem.

Read more: Is the agreement to “reset Pak-US” ties enough for the revival…

Instead of providing any support, the US went on to withhold a huge chunk of security aid and even tried to influence the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not to offer any bailout package as the same may be used to repay Chinese loans. Thanks then to the Saudis and Chinese for helping Pakistan to fix its immediate balance of payments. That crucial support coming from alternative powers – and fears of regional realignment – might have prompted the US to change its stance.

Pakistan has always responded in positive gesture and has been overburdened with Afghan refugees influx caused by US air strikes on Afghanistan for regime change, dismantling Al-Qaida and nabbing the Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan has the majority of Afghan refugees in KP and Sindh province and often found involved in terrorist links or activities as Pakistan Army and Rangers conducted various anti-terrorism operations under the National Action Plan in FATA and KP to cleanse the terrorist elements and so far, achieved tremendous success in eradication of terrorism and restoring peace in the country.

It is hoped that this change of attitude will benefit both the countries and will improve diplomatic relations and help find out lasting solutions to bring peace in war-torn Afghanistan and repatriation of Afghan refugees.

On the other hand, US has always demanded from Pakistan to do more that is really disappointing and hurting. Despite all these odds, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership appears to be on the same page and ready to engage with the US on revised terms of engagement for the sake of peace.

This war on terror is perhaps one of the longest wars and apparently, US seems losing the ground since the Taliban appear to be much organized and have become a party for talks rather than an insurgent group. They have control of various provinces and possess great influence in its controlled areas.

Owing to being a landlocked country, Afghanistan depends on Pakistan for the trade and supplies. The peace process may pave the way for Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) that was bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010 that calls for greater facilitation in the movement of goods between these two countries.

Read more: Nikki Haley doesn’t want a single dollar for Pakistan

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is yet another trade route that will benefit Afghanistan if the peace agreement reaches between the Taliban and the Afghan Government.

CPEC is a game changer not only for Pakistan but also for the Central Asian States. The analysts are of the view that CPEC may trigger Hybrid war since it has a very significant geostrategic position that will attract more countries towards it including the OPEC to use the Gwadar Port for transportation of Oil and LPG gas to the South Asian and Central Asian States. It is imperative that Pakistan and US must work together for regional peace.

The withdrawal plan for the NATO forces may be chalked out and the refugees’ crisis may be overcome since Pakistan has not been compensated in a real sense despite being overburdened by 1.45 million Afghan Refugees as per recent statistics of UNHCR and UNHCR termed Pakistan as World’s biggest country to host such high number of Refugees.

Read more: Pakistan not your ‘hired gun’ anymore: PM Khan tells Trump

One can hope that Trump’s letter represents a genuine change in attitude that will benefit both the countries, will improve diplomatic relations and help find out lasting solutions to bring peace in war-torn Afghanistan and repatriation of Afghan refugees. It remains to be seen.

Abdul Rahman Malik is a Policy Researcher, Governance Specialist and Development Sector Professional having worked for Asian Development Bank and other National and International Development Organizations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.