Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal |
The recent developments have created a conducive environment for improving the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States. Trump Administration’s realization about the significance of Pakistan in the affairs of Afghanistan transformed the situation.
In reality, it is too complicated for the Americans to accomplish their objectives in Afghanistan without the sincere support of Pakistan. Therefore, instead of accusing Pakistan, President Trump while acting rationally admitted Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror in his letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan on December 3, 2018.
The US policy to strengthen Indo-Afghanistan strategic partnership and New Delhi’s strategy to encircle Pakistan have increased India’s involvement in the Afghanistan affairs.
Recently, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had expressed optimism about the restoration of dialogue with United States government for the revival of American financial assistance to Pakistan. Currently, Pakistan is encountering economic challenges and therefore it is requesting its friends and allies for economic assistance. The recent Trump Administration’s positive overture has generated a hope about the improvement of bilateral relations between Islamabad and Washington and also signaled about the resumption of American economic assistance.
Trump Administration had cut the military aid to Pakistan. Last month, President Trump accused Pakistan of providing a sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani ruling elite candidly rejected President Trump’s allegations and reminded him about its role in the war on terrorism. Perhaps, its undeniable fact that Pakistan had suffered immensely in the war on terrorism.
It is grieved of 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 bn was lost to its economy. Besides, its Federal Administered Tribal Areas were devastated, and millions of people were uprooted from their homes. Even today, its armed forces are fighting the radicalized militants.
The recent change in President Trump’s perception of Pakistan seems realistic. It is cognizant about Pakistan’s importance in Afghanistan affairs, but it is uncomfortable with Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy. He does not approve Islamabad’s perception about India, despite knowing that New Delhi’s military buildup poses a direct threat to Pakistan. Second, they are not comfortable with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The Indian intelligence agencies have been using the Afghanistan territory for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad was pressing Washington to curtail New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan.
The revival of the assistance seems impossible soon because the United States Defence Authorization Act-2019 (NDAA-19) makes “Pakistan ineligible for Coalition Support Fund (CSF), but adds Pakistan to a list of countries that can receive a related form of assistance designed to help partner nations bolster border security.” Maybe, Mr. Qureshi is expecting the assistance in improving the Afghanistan-Pakistan border management. Improvement of border management could prevent smuggling across the borders.
Islamabad has always discouraged India’s role in Afghanistan. Despite it, India’s presence in Afghanistan gradually increased. The US policy to strengthen Indo-Afghanistan strategic partnership and New Delhi’s strategy to encircle Pakistan have increased India’s involvement in the Afghanistan affairs.
India’s investment in the Afghanistan infrastructural buildup has a constructive impact on Indo-Afghanistan strategic partnership. For instance, the Indian government invested $27 million in the infrastructure buildup of Afghanistan. Besides it, the Indian companies did $200 million of investment.
With the increase of India’s financial input in the Afghanistan buildup, its intelligence agencies presence in Afghanistan has increased which is detrimental for Pakistan. The Indian intelligence agencies have been using the Afghanistan territory for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad was pressing Washington to curtail New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan.
The Modi government did not reciprocate Pakistan’s goodwill gesture of taking the initiative to open the Kartarpur Corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims.
Recently, one notices a shift in Islamabad’s perception about India’s role in Afghanistan. On December 10, Foreign Minister Qureshi said: “although Pakistan was committed to facilitate a negotiated end to the 17-year-old Afghan war, it could not do the task alone and those other regional countries, including India, needed to play their part.” He said, “Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard will also be required.” Theoretically, he sounds rational. However, it is not clear whether India is willing to play a constructive role in Afghanistan.
The Modi government did not reciprocate Pakistan’s goodwill gesture of taking the initiative to open the Kartarpur Corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims. Why is Pakistan legitimizing India’s role in war-torn Afghanistan? It seems Washington is pressurizing Pakistan to admit India’s role in a negotiated peace. Otherwise, India is not a neighbour of Afghanistan.
To conclude, the trends in the global and regional politics indicate that the working relationship between Pakistan and the United States will improve. However, there is a lesser chance for the improvement of Pakistan and India’s bilateral relations.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.