Thursday September 28, 2023

Frosty ties

By Editorial Board
October 12, 2021

It is now obvious after the visit to Pakistan by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman that relations between Washington and Islamabad are, at the present time, cooler than has been the case for many decades. This is essentially not good news for Pakistan nor indeed for the US. Pakistan needs to maintain a cordial relationship with Washington, even if not a subservient one, in order to prevent further international isolation and to keep up with a strong relationship which can bolster its own position in the region and provide vital aid in many sectors. This is especially true when there is a risk that India may be attempting to move into that position. Before coming to Pakistan, Wendy Sherman, while still in India, emphasised that her visit to Pakistan would focus only on Afghanistan and not a broader base agenda. She slightly altered the tone while in Pakistan, but this is clearly Washington's view of the situation at the present time. And on Afghanistan, it is not happy with Pakistan, choosing to blame it for the fall of Kabul, and refusing to accept that much of the blame for this lies with itself.

Nevertheless, steps need to be taken to mend that relationship, which has served Pakistan well in the past, and of course, served the US even better. A rift at this point would not be helpful to either country. Pakistan, meanwhile, needs to work on means to deal with both China and the US as friends that can be helpful on many fronts. The US has made it clear that it sees Pakistan only in the context of Afghanistan and wishes to focus essentially on the issue of counterterrorism, recognition of the Taliban government, an improvement in human rights in Afghanistan and access to Afghanistan. A group of 22 Republican senators who moved a bill in the US Senate seeking a probe into Islamabad’s alleged role in the Afghan war also does not bode well for Pakistan. Though the demands from the US are not clearly enunciated, certain air and land communication corridors and counterterrorism are perhaps the main assurances that the US expects of Pakistan.

In this scenario Pakistan is doing the right thing by not recognising the Taliban government before the rest of the world does. Pakistan would do better by continuing its efforts for softening the Taliban position on controversial issues such as girls’ education, women’s work, and human rights. While Pakistan, as a sovereign country, must put its own interests first, it must also remember it is a part of the global community. At the moment, it is clear that Pakistan and the US are not exactly in a good place as far as mutual ties are concerned. It will, however, be to the benefit of both countries that efforts are made to build a better relationship which can work for both, while also remembering that historically Afghanistan is not the only issue on which Pakistan and the US have worked together.