ISLAMABAD - The unsettled marriage between Pakistan and the US continues to witness ripples since the commencement of Trump’s presidency. Recently, the United State has decided to place restrictions on the movements of Pakistani diplomats, forcing them to limit their movements within a radius of 40km in the cities they are posted. As a result, Pakistan in a tit for tat move has imposed similar restrictions on American diplomats as per the announcement of Foreign Ministry.
Interestingly, in another move, the US has blocked Pakistan’s move of adding a leader of the Jamaatul Ahrar, JuA, faction of the banned TTP, Abdul Wali, alias Umer Khorasani to the UN sanction committee. Despite the fact that the JuA, organization which Khorasani leads, was added to the UN sanction committee in mid-2017 last year. These moves along with the quagmire in Afghanistan have further strained the already tensed Pak-US relations.
A lot has been written and detailed discourses have been deliberated by much of our print and electronic media. Except for few rational approaches, most of the arguments are painted with blinded patriotism on our side and in the US; frustration over the decade-long war in Afghanistan is flashed out by lambasting Pakistan.
Undeniably, both sides have genuine reservations which are needed to be dealt seriously rather than pointing dubious fingers at each other. The very nature of this unholy alliance with its historical roots and baggage has been mostly misinterpreted and has widely remained misunderstood.
The central dilemma within Pak-US relationship is the lack of long-term strategic convergence. However, if history remains the guide, the relationship does enjoy honeymoon periods of mutual love, respect and bilateral praise. But at a larger spectrum, the relationship continues to be deprived of long-term strategic convergence as enjoyed and celebrated by Pakistan and China. History illustrates that throughout of their bilateral engagements each side has used the other to advance its own interest for the sake of others. Both have enjoyed temporal success but not without a cost.
Most of Pakistani’s complain of US provisional temperament. It is perceived and supported by past events that as soon as the interest of US is served or surpasses the expiry date, Pakistan is abandoned, as it was in case of the Afghan war in the 1990s. Not only had it left Pakistan alone but followed Pressler Sanctions.
Similarly, the relationship in Pakistan has been used as a seal of legitimacy by most of the undemocratic regimes here. This along with addiction of aid and arms has further caused problems. For instance, In Afghan war of 1979, General Zia, the then President presented and opened Pakistani routes to the US to gain legitimacy for his government and sought economic aid and military craft.
However, as soon as the Afghan war was won against Russia by joint US and Pakistan collusion, difficulties became evident once the US abandoned Pakistan, and thus Pakistan was left vulnerable and the corridors of power in Pakistan felt betrayed and the seeds of mistrust were sown.
The same episode was repeated soon after the calamity of 9/11. Gen Pervez Musharaf, the then President in order to attain the badge of legitimacy for his government took a strategic summersault and turned his guns against the Taliban, once our blue-eyed boys. Again alone with the legitimacy of the regime, aid and military craft were sought. With past experience, this time Pakistan did not show its all cards and tried to play from both ends. Similarly, US administration also played a dubious role.
In both events of history, the bilateral Pak-US relation has been formed on short-term strategic convergence without deliberations over long-term effect. However, the irregularities soon haunted back by surfacing and then killing of Osama bin Laden, the most wanted Man in US, the Salala Check post incident, where Pakistan arm forces were targeted by US gunships and then the killing of Maulana Akhtar Mansoor, the Afghan Taliban leader, by US drone within Pakistan’s boundaries which brought the relationship to its lowest ebb. The major cause has been the lack of mutual trust and long-term strategic convergence.
With Trump in office and the initial punishment indicted by US Authorities, the relationship counties to dive low in days to come. The most important measures which need immediate response are to continue talking. The recent meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and US Vice President Mike Pence was a step in a right direction.
Pakistan needs to come clean about its influence over the Afghan Taliban, and tell the world its actual position on the group
However, the meeting did not prove to be fruitful as per the current status of the relationship is considered. Furthermore, the recent posting of Mike Pompeo, the ex-CIA Chief as Secretary of state does not promise a good omen, keeping in view the hard-line followed by him against Pakistan.
Both sides need to listen to bilateral complain and to be trustworthy in case of addressing the grievances. Both share equal blame and both have played a significant role in creating an atmosphere of mistrust. US must address Pakistani apprehension, especially, Indian oriental security issues within Afghanistan. Moreover, the presence of Pakistani Taliban and other groups within Afghanistan engaged in destabilising Pakistan must be looked upon to address Pakistani grievances.
On the Pakistani front, Pakistan should come clear over its level of influence within the files of Taliban and should demonstrate its actual position on the Taliban. Until and unless a convergence within is not established, the relationship would witness ups and downs. The current stained will not only deteriorate the bilateral relationship but would have a larger impact within the region of South-Asia, particularly in Afghanistan.
BY: Hammal Kashnai. *The author is a Graduate of International Relations from National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad and a freelance writer*