Handling Reset in Pak-US Ties By Muhammad Usman

Newly fond need of reset in relations of both countries, scaled up the ladder significantly when during his visit to US, FM Shah Mehmood Qurrehi met President Trump informally and US Secretary of State, Pompeo as a follow up to what transpired in his visit to Islamabad last month. Trump was quite positive and congenial at sharp contrast to bombshell he dropped in his tweet on first day of this year when he accused Pakistan of fleecing US by lies and deceit. Pompeo sounded more anxious and forthcoming when he said that US looks forward to working with new government of Pakistan in implementing its reform agenda – a big allure and appreciated Islamabad’s support for political reconciliation in Kabul and its efforts for peace in region – a virtual clean chit, exonerating Pakistan of all allegations of abetting terrorism levelled by them.
This is a complete change of heart but not unusual in trouble prone relationship between both countries. Its two replicas could readily be traced. One was after Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in December 1979. Other one was in backdrop of 9/11 however, former bears more semblance with instant reset. In December 1979, Pakistan was a sanctioned country by US in its pursuit of nuclear non-proliferation in region while not even caring about that Pakistan was a bulwark, enrolled in early 50s against Russian thrust towards warm waters. When Russian tanks rolled in Kabul, requirement of Pakistan as a frontline state was a rude awakening call.
Americans came running to Islamabad to nudge Pakistan to stand against Russian aggression in region along with a bouquet of renewed goodwill and $400 million assistance. General Zia ul Haq sarcastically rejected their offer, calling it a peanut. He said “Pakistan will not barter its security for $400 million…..the assistance must be commensurate with size of the threat”. Former US National Security advisor Brzezinski hastened to pursue/woo him by terming it a seed money but to impress him. General Zia was a tough customer and dealt with a blend of prudence and audacity. He could play with shark with marked self-assurance and could take an insult with a smile. He exactly knew the price which he could extract from US.
He kept US on tenterhooks before cutting a deal with incoming US government under Regan. In hindsight, one could decipher what he got implicitly/explicitly as quad pro quo from US to fight against Soviets; US would make no bone about nuclear pursuits of Pakistan, US would give Pakistan military hardware on which it would lay hand, no kowtowing to India and Pakistan would only deal with Afghan Mujahedeen. These were very taxing demands but US obliged because of its vital interest; to defeat communism and Afghanistan was the battle ground nevertheless, it was a nerve racking undertaking in which General Zia was ably assisted by his team notably, Foreign Ministers/Secretaries; Agha Shahi. Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, Niaz Naik and Abdul Sattar. They are towering names in field of diplomacy/statesmanship.
In above instance, passage to Arabian Sea to Soviet Union via Afghanistan and Pakistan was the flash point. New Great Game has already begun. The world would soon turn bipolar as it was in cold war. US and Soviet Union were the contenders. Now contest is between US, China and Russia because of their clashing geopolitical, geo-economics and geostrategic interests. The China’s BRI, seeking greater connectivity to ME, Europe and Africa is mother of their rivalry and CPEC is its linchpin. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its report “the Silk Road Economic Belt” says “Pakistan’s Balochistan remains a strategic area that could become a flash point for regional competition and is even referred to as the new epicenter of the great game”. In this contest coupled with other dynamics, Pakistan assumes greater strategic importance even greater than cold war era. Precisely this may be the reason for US’s rapprochement with Pakistan. Our FM has laid the cards when he said “we want US to be friends with Pakistan, we recognise, US is an important global power and they will continue to be a military, technological and economic power in foreseeable future. They are looking at different options, they are looking at new friends in region. We do have friends who have been consistent and very valuable, China is one of them. Some other nations also recognised Pakistan’s strategic location and understood its importance, so we are not alone, everyone has options”.
It is easier said than done because its handling calls for walking on a very tight rope. It presents difficult dilemmas with narrow margin of decision because in above instance highlighted, Pakistan had to stand against an adversary. Present situation involves friends. In comparison, team we have, does not provide comfort and assurance. Shah Mehmood Qureshi is prone to self projection. Institutional decay and decomposition is all pervasive. For no good reason, Foreign Ministry could be an exception. Though Imran Khan is Incharge but definitely he needs an astute team to handle such a delicate, difficult and complex undertaking
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
Source: https://pakobserver.net/handling-reset-in-pak-us-ties/

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