Thursday July 18, 2024

Natural allies

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
August 02, 2019

US President Donald Trump is an influential world leader who recently succeeded to bring South Korea and North Korea closer.

On many occasions, I have called Pakistan and the US natural allies due to the fact that both countries have deep roots in democratic struggle. If the Americans are proud of Abraham Lincoln then we honour Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Al Jinnah who is famous for his principles, dignity, character and democracy.

The US is among those first countries that established diplomatic relations with Pakistan. Bilateral relations were also promoted through public diplomacy. Many elderly Pakistani citizens still remember the historical visit of US Vice President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. A large number of people of Karachi stood by the roadside to welcome the honourable guest.

There was a man standing with his camel, waving at the US convoy. Lyndon Johnson was so impressed that he shook hands with him and invited ‘Camel guy’ to visit the US. And after a few months, Bashir Sarban reached there as the official guest of the US government. On the occasion, Johnson himself was present at the airport to receive him. The hospitality of the Americans showed their respect for friends. The media of both countries projected him as a symbol of Pak-US people friendship.

This was the golden era when Pak-US people-to-people contacts were on the rise. Schoolchildren were provided milk packets, books, and stickers, etc as gift from the US. American libraries were established in major cities. Even if a child wrote a letter to the US for any support, s/he was facilitated positively. The father of a five-year-old Pakistani heart patient named ‘Afshan’ had asked the US for the medical treatment of his daughter. The US government not only invited them for a successful operation in a US hospital but also sent a team of American doctors to start heart surgery operations in Pakistan.

When Pakistan faced a crisis of food shortage, the US came forward to provide a huge quantity of wheat. USAID also initiated many development cooperation programmes. Pakistani students were provided scholarships in American universities. Exchange programmes were started.

It was very unfortunate that some common enemies succeeded in creating misunderstandings and mistrust among both countries. The situation became so tense that the US visa became almost impossible to attain for the Pakistani people. The movement of US nationals was restricted in Pakistan. Although, no Pakistani citizen was involved in the 9/11 tragedy, still Pakistan was linked with terrorism. Pakistan is still playing a leading role as a front-line state in the ‘war against terror’. In fact, the innocent people of Pakistan have been victims of terrorism, violence and extremism. The unfortunate situation favoured some elements to exploit the sentiments of people for their vested interests.

Why are once-close-friends now blaming each other? The answer to this question must be found by both governments jointly. In my view, diplomatic relations between both countries were cordial until the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘Rambo III’ can be watched in support of my stance. If the situation of Afghanistan after the exit of the Soviet Union is the main reason for all tensions, then the history of the 1990s must not be repeated by the US to once again leave the region alone at the mercy of extremists and war lords.

No doubt, Trump has pleased Pakistani people due to his stance on Kashmir. Pakistan is now eagerly looking forward to welcome him to Pakistan. Non-Muslim minority Pakistani citizens are also interested to present the real situation of religious freedom in the country. However, the new wave of terrorism, just after the return of PM Imran Khan from the US, must be considered part of the ongoing conspiracies to engage our brave armed forces of Pakistan on the border, and keep the US away from Pakistan.

The US must also use its influence on India for recognizing the crucial role of Pakistan in the Afghan peace process and to extend cooperation to curb terrorism in the best interests of world peace and regional stability.

Let’s hope that PM Imran Khan and President Donald Trump will succeed in reviving people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani