Waqar Ahmad Khan
Author: Waqar Ahmad Khan

The imperialist policy of the US has added a new chapter of regime change in the history of Pakistan in recent days, however, the circumstances are not changed as expected; rather the situation is getting more adverse with every passing day. While on one hand, the establishment is facing stiff criticism for ouster of the former premier Imran Khan, on the other hand, the newly formed “unity government” is experiencing tough circumstances on every front due to its incapability of controlling the rapidly growing inflation and bad administration of core matters of the country. Amid all these on-going issues, Islamabad is somehow trying to melt down the frozen ice on US-Pakistan diplomatic relations, which are in limbo from years, especially after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August, 2021. The evacuation of the US from Afghanistan indicated a great defeat of sole superpower of the world, which has ignited immense rage in the power circles of Washington and undoubtedly, that is the main reason behind Washington’s displeasure. Particularly, these relations reached at low in March 2022, when the former premier Imran Khan accused the Biden Administration for his ouster.

The newly elected Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited the US on May 17, 2022, to attend the two-day ministerial conference on the “Threat to Global Food Security” triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on invitation of the US Secretary of State, Antony John Blinken. According to the global political analysts, Islamabad considered it an opportunity to normalize the stranded diplomatic relations between the two countries, as the think tanks in Islamabad are well aware of the fact that the leaders of both US political parties have largely written off Pakistan since the fall of Kabul in August, 2021. Although Pakistan is still a major non-NATO ally, the world’s fifth-most populous country and above all, a nuclear power situated strategically among China, India, Afghanistan and Iran, but after years of mutual distrust between Washington and Islamabad, the revival of relations between the two countries cannot be predicted, however, Islamabad is willing and hopeful to normalize tense diplomatic relations with the US. On May 18, 2022, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held one-hour long meeting with Antony John Blinken. Both leaders mutually discussed bilateral relations, regional situation, and cooperation in various sectors between the two countries. After the meeting, in a series of tweets, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari shed light on key talking points of his meeting. He tweeted, “we reaffirmed the importance of the 75th anniversary of US-Pakistan relations and mutual commitment to strengthening broad-based, comprehensive ties between the two countries. We had in-depth discussions on issues impacting regional peace and security, including Afghanistan. We resolved to work together to meet the challenges of food and energy security. We also discussed expansion of cooperation in trade and investment, energy and climate change, health and education, IT and tech, and agriculture as well as the importance of ‘trade over aid’. We are looking forward to continue cooperation in defense and CT sectors”.

Meanwhile, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement, “the Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed expanding partnership in climate, investment, trade, and health as well as people-to-people ties. They underscored the importance of US-Pakistan cooperation on regional peace, counterterrorism, Afghan stability, support for Ukraine, and democratic principles. The Foreign Minister affirmed a shared desire for a strong and prosperous bilateral relationship during a meeting with the Secretary”. In this regard, while talking to the press in Washington, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said, “the way in which this relationship progressed in recent years doesn’t serve the interests of the people of Pakistan, but it also doesn’t serve the interests of the people of US. I still believe that Pakistan and the US agree on far more than we disagree on, therefore, we must move beyond past tensions over Afghanistan, as we are entering in a new era of diplomatic relations and engagement after years of strained relations”. He further added, “we had a very encouraging, positive and productive meeting. We believe that Pakistan must continue to engage with the US at all levels. This meeting was indeed an important first step”.

Although the accusations by the former premier Imran Khan on the Biden administration regarding meddling in Pakistan’s politics, his ill-timed visit to Moscow on the day Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, his hectoring of Islamabad-based European diplomats, his ire at UAE and Saudi Arabia for not backing his condemnation of India over Kashmir and his proposal for an alternative Islamic alliance with Turkey and Malaysia had obstructed the ways for continuing good diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the US, however, Islamabad’s strategy of reducing distrust and focusing on incremental progress can play a vital role in the revival of diplomatic relations among the two countries. It is a fact and Washington clearly understands it that although not as a whole, but in various parts of Pakistan’s political circle, an anti-Americanism is deeply rooted. Beyond this, in Washington, substantively there is no strong Pakistani political constituency, which can do lobbing for improving US-Pakistan relations, however, still there are multiple reasons of a possible progress in this regard. The most vital reason is Afghanistan, which could now be an area of cooperation among Pakistan and the US, following the withdrawal of US troops last year. Now, the two countries’ interests there are largely aligned around long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and it is essential for both countries to move beyond by ignoring all disagreements on this issue. Diversifying the relationship beyond military issues might be helpful as well in stabilizing the relations between the two countries. Although the power circles of Washington are disappointed on Pakistan’s failure to condemn China’s human rights abuses and refusal to join Western sanctions against Russia for its invasion on Ukraine, however, positive diplomatic efforts of Islamabad can help in melting the frozen ice.

Moreover, the newly established “Sharif-Zardari” government is pro-American, therefore, an urgent reset in the ties of Pakistan and the US is of great importance and a top priority for Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The military establishment of Pakistan also has deep historical ties with its counterparts in the US. Repairing ties with the US could also help Pakistan regain influence over the Taliban in Afghanistan. Keeping in view all these facts, the only option for normalization of diplomatic ties between Islamabad and Washington is the positive diplomatic engagement, otherwise, Washington might see Pakistan in the Russian bloc soon, as already the great progress was noticed by the world in Russo-Pakistan relations in era of the former premier Imran Khan. Even as it gets on with resetting ties with the US, Pakistan is keen not to give any wrong signals to China. The policy of not to allow anyone to harm Pakistan’s “iron-clad friendship” with China has always been a priority for Islamabad. The visit of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to the US may not be nettlesome for China, however, Pakistan’s long-term strong ties with China are always been bewildering for Washington. It depends upon Islamabad now that how it will manage the two rival power circles by keeping strong diplomatic ties with both of them at the same time. What will be the future of US-Pakistan relations, the upcoming time will disclose it soon.

 

Author: Waqar Ahmad Khan

The Author is a columnist, whose columns are regularly published in English and Urdu on different news websites. The author mostly writes on contemporary affairs, international and national politics, history, social issues, and Islam.

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