Friday August 19, 2022

Fixing ties

By Editorial Board
July 07, 2022

Pakistan’s relations with the United States were on the lowest ebb for most of the period under former prime minister Imran Khan. After the assumption of office by the new government in Pakistan, efforts are afoot to fix the damage done. One step forward has been the visit of US President’s Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Dilawar Syed to Pakistan. He called on Punjab Governor Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman and also visited the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The visit is likely to enhance trade and investment between the two countries. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari too has held a telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during which both countries reiterated the need to strengthen ties, especially in the trade, energy, health and defence sectors. Bilateral cooperation is something that should always remain a priority, irrespective of which government is in power but unfortunately the PTI leadership for its political gains has been using a narrative based on a ‘conspiracy’ that the US allegedly hatched to dislodge Imran Khan from his office. Though the US has not always been a loyal friend of Pakistan and at times ditched its partner at crucial moments, diplomacy demands a continuation of friendly ties.

Strengthening relations is not that difficult if both countries show commitment to and interest in each other’s businesses. For example, joint ventures is an area where the two countries can move together, coupled with better ties in the field of trade. The US has been helping Pakistan in the education and health sectors, but perhaps the most pressing need that Pakistan has is in the energy sector. The US special representative has said that American companies are interested in investing in various sectors. Technology is another such area where the US is particularly interested in working with Pakistan. Since the US is the largest single-country export market for Pakistan and its largest source of foreign investment, traders from both countries should face minimum delays and difficulties in conducting their businesses. More than 80 US companies are already working in Pakistan and still there is a need to further improve the business environment in Pakistan to enhance its potential.

It is also time to move on from the ‘Lettergate’ narrative propounded by the former prime minister. The recent steps towards a thaw in relations between the two governments is an encouraging sign. After Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s visit to the US, the first full-time American ambassador in nearly four years has assumed charge in Islamabad. Needlessly discrediting America – or any other country for that matter – is not going to help any political party in Pakistan. The PTI has been maneuvering to score political points and in doing so it has generated negative vibes that are hard to clear. Rebuilding bilateral ties will be a long and tedious process; the present government seems to be on the right track.