News Analysis |
Ambassador Alice Wells concluded her visit to Pakistan and in a statement released by the US embassy, she emphasized that US wants to move towards a new relationship with Pakistan based on ‘mutual interest’. Ambassador Alice Wells is the Assistant Secretary to the US’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. She also urged the Pakistan government to act against the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its soil and not differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists.
The ambassador acknowledged Pakistan’s effort in the fight against terrorism. ‘Ambassador Wells emphasized that the U.S. South Asia strategy represents an opportunity to work together for the establishment of a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, the defeat of ISIS in South Asia, and the elimination of terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States’, the statement said.
Its intractability is a sign that it does not agree with the solution that the US is presenting as final in Afghanistan. Similar concerns on US policy in Afghanistan are held by all other countries in the region: Russia, China and Iran.
Pakistan in turn said it shared the US desire for mutual cooperation but demanded more respect and trust from the US authorities. This was the first visit by senior US official after the crisis created by President Trump’s New Year’s tweet. The US president accused Pakistan of ‘deceit and lies’ and of harbouring terrorists within its soil. This move was followed by US suspension of military assistance to Pakistan which amounted to almost 2 billion dollars.
Pakistan, has in return, warned US against any unilateral action on its soil. Khurram Dastagir, Defence Minister announced that Pakistan has suspended all intelligence sharing with the US until further notice. Currently, Pakistan has not disrupted the aerial and road supply lines to US troops in Afghanistan. Ambassador Alice Wells also emphasised that the US was opposed to any effort to encourage separatism inside Pakistan.
“We do not support Balochi separatism,” she added. She also stated that the US would not allow the use of Afghan soil to act as a base for hostile acts against Pakistan. The US ambassador’s visit has been categorized as an attempt to normalize the relationship. Last week, it was reported that US General Votel called General Bajwa to discuss matters of mutual interest; General Bajwa had complained about the complete disregard of Pakistan’s sacrifices by the US authorities.
Pakistan provides the shortest route to Afghanistan. The US currently has tense relations with Iran and Russia, who it could have otherwise used to manage supplies into Afghanistan.
Ambassador Wells in her visit whilst acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts and sacrifices in the war against terror, it is not clear what else has been accomplished from the meeting. It is not clear how basing a relationship on ‘mutual interest’ would be ‘new’ approach, in fact Pakistan has always claimed the US has always had an off and on relationship based on its own wants. While there have been some efforts by US officials to appease and pacify Pakistan, the US stance on the Taliban or Haqqani network has not changed.
They are still demanding more action against ‘terrorist groups’ within Pakistan. The efficicacy of threatening and even if implemented on US aid suspension is having diminishing effect on Pakistan’s strategy. Pakistan has claimed more than 23 billion dollars in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) but received only 14 billion dollars in the past 16 years. It is less than 1% of Pakistan’s budget and Pakistan can easily manage it from other sources so it is unlikely to persuade Pakistan to act in US interests, if those do not align with its own.
She also urged the Pakistan government to act against the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its soil ad not differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists.
Former US ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson pointed out recently in his exclusive interview with The New York Times that the only way forward for US-Pak relationship is diplomacy and not coercion. He stated that Pakistan is vital for bringing peace in Afghanistan because of its geo strategic location. Pakistan provides the shortest route to Afghanistan. The US currently has tense relations with Iran and Russia, who it could have otherwise used to manage supplies into Afghanistan.
Read more: Afghan quagmire: Options for Pakistan
While maintaining peace in Afghanistan is also very important for Pakistan, it is increasingly vocalising its concerns over the way the US is behaving. Its intractability is a sign that it does not agree with the solution that the US is presenting as final in Afghanistan. Similar concerns on US policy in Afghanistan are held by all other countries in the region: Russia, China and Iran.