The bilateralrelationship between Pakistan and the United States is at a critical juncture.Developments over the past two weeks indicate that mistrust and divergence ofinterests have increased the strategic distance between the two. Yet, bothsides continue to maintain communication.
Presently, the United States is also Pakistan’s neighbor, owing to itsmilitary presence in Afghanistan. Where does the bilateral relationship go in thenear future, at a time when the Trump administration is being confrontationaland Pakistan is bracing for general elections this summer? This piece will explore the question and possiblemeasures both sides can take to shape contours of bilateral relationship innear future.PK2 The roots of this strategic dissonancebetween Washington and Islamabad go back a decade.
Three successive U.S.presidents have pressured Pakistan to ‘do more’ in fulfilling Americanobjectives in Afghanistan related to the war on terrorism.
Meanwhile, Pakistanhas steadfastly pursued its own national security interests. Events of the year2011 are case in point. 2011 arguably marks the worst year in the bilateralrelationship during past 16 years of engagement. Despite recurring events thatled to direct confrontation communication channels were kept open. Both sidesconducted their internal reviews of the relationship and concluded that strategic compulsions necessitateengagement. Patient diplomacy . gradually repaired the relationship afterWashington tendered an apology and GLOCs were opened.
Five years later, Pakistan and the United States are clashing again. However,context and events are different. Trump administration is demanding certain actions.
While a new element in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is theunpredictable U.S.
President Donald Trump. Islamabad has, meanwhile, dug in and is refusing to accede to U.S. demands under pressure. Impassecontinues and at time when Pakistan has entered into an election year. PML-Ngovernment is seized with domestic politics with focus on securing a majorityat the polls. It also means tactical cooperation would resume and bureaucratic engagement will take place on as and when basis. Howeverpolitical capital necessary to undertaking resetting the relationship withTrump administration and re-viewing Pakistan’s Afghan policy will not bepresent.
In this sense, most likely, present status-quo will continue for thenear future. Before a reset takes place both sides can make progress in certainareas. Next Steps for Bilateral EngagementWith regard to the war on terrorism and theconflict in Afghanistan, Islamabad and Washington are well aware of eachother’s concerns and interests. AV3 Z4 TheUnited States seeksaction against specific groups, particularly the Haqqani network. Washington alsoemphasizes the crucial role of Pakistan in facilitatinga reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Islamabad looks atthese issues differently. It contends that the conflict in Afghanistan is directlyspilling over into Pakistan. It is waryof the long-term presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the footprintof India across its western border. Islamabad alleges that a joint Afghani andIndian intelligence apparatus is fomenting terrorism in Pakistan. Moreover,Pakistan’s national security posture is India-centric and its interests inAfghanistan stem from that particular viewpoint. To bridge thedistance between standpoints of both sides, the first requirement is of a “ruthlessly candid dialogue” astermed by Pakistan’s defence minister.
Such a dialogue will take place awayfrom public. Through back-channels, American and Pakistani interlocutors canbegin to share minimum actions each seeks from the other side and then chart acourse for reducing political tensions. However, one challenge is to identifywho will verify the steps each side takes to implement the commitments made.Renegotiatingthe Aid Factor AV5 For over a decadePakistan has received economic and security-related assistance from the UnitedStates.
Islamabad, however, didn’t charge U.S. led international forces forground and air supply lines. A fact acknowledgedby Hilary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State, at the time of resumption ofGLOCs in July 2012. This needs to change. In recent years a narrative hasemerged that Pakistan has been provided ‘billions and billions of dollars’ butit has not cooperated with the United States in Afghanistan.
As a sovereignnation Islamabad should lessen its dependence on foreign economic assistance.Pakistan could announce that it will not receive any further economic andsecurity assistance from Washington, but it will charge the United States andinternational forces for supplies via Pakistani territory. Washington did providesecurity and economic assistance to Islamabad but it always came with stringsattached and certain conditions.
As the contours of the post-9/11 relationshipwere shaped in late 2001 and early 2002, Washington and Islamabad agreed that theUnited States will reimburse Pakistan for military operations Pakistanundertakes on its soil to support the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Out of $33billion, around $14 billion were those CSF reimbursements, which is notforeign assistance. PK6 Whilethe remaining security assistance has been crucial for developing Pakistan’s counter-terrorismcapabilities, the United States has provided that assistance in furtherance ofits own national security interests. As for economicassistance, while Pakistan did receive its assistance from the United States PakistanPolitical process in AfghanistanTwo weeks after PresidentTrump’s tweet, mediaoutlets reported that talks between the Afghan Taliban/Haqqani network and the Afghangovernment took place in Turkey and Pakistan.
PK7 Theseexploratory talks indicate that pressure on Pakistan moved it to make a newattempt at commencing peace talks. Coincidently, acting Assistant U.S.Secretary of State for South Asia Allice Wells was also inIslamabad during the same period. Even if U.S.
representatives were notinvolved in the Islamabad talks, the results will emerge during the upcoming springand summer, when the Taliban’s next fighting season starts. It ispossible that Islamabad and Washington can save their bilateral relationship byachieving preliminary progress in talks with the Afghan Taliban. Variousprocesses have been tried for commencing peace talks with Afghan Taliban. Anyforward movement also requires talks between Islamabad and Washington on meansand ends of the peace process. Washington has indicated openness to political settlement with Taliban if they reject terrorism.Islamabad has pushed for a ‘politically negotiated settled settlement’ between Taliban andAfghan government. Pakistan asserts that only Afghan government and the UnitedStates can negotiate details for such an arrangement with Taliban.
Islamabad,thus, cannot guarantee success of a peace process. Pakistan, however, can callfor a cease-fire in Afghanistan to push forward the peace process. ConclusionDue to thegeographical compulsions and constraints of the international system, Islamabadand Washington are compelled to maintain communication. Crises in bilateralrelationships occur periodically. However, the current phase appears to be the beginningof a new chapter of the seven-decade old bilateral relationship. A total rupturein bilateral ties is not in the interest of either side. Both countries are significantstakeholders in the on-going conflict in Afghanistan, yet their divergentstrategies were bound to clash.
And confrontation is underway. Meanwhile, stepscan be taken by both sides to repair some of the damage and tone down politicaltensions. AV1Faisal, thanks for working on this despite jet lag. I think the workings of a good pieceare in here but since so much has already been written on this subject, it isessential that your piece breaks new ground.
This is especially important asit’s your first fellowship piece and you’ll be sending this as an example ofyour work to people you meet. Here are a few suggestions on how youcould strengthen this piece:· Skip over parts that have already been covered(such as how US-Pakistan relations have deteriorated in the past few months)and use that space to talk more about what’s expected in the near future andwhat you’re recommending. In this respect, it may be valuable to ask some ofthese questions during your meetings with Shamila Chaudhary and Shuja Nawaz andincorporate that analysis in here. · You talk about 2011 as the worst year ofrelations in the last two decades. How did the relationship survive and getback on track? Maybe do a comparison of then to now and glean what the UnitedStates and Pakistan can learn from that period?· Address the possibility that the relationshipcould just keep ambling along without a big gesture to reset ties and what aresome practical/realistic expectations there. We can definitely discuss this inperson, if you’d prefer.
PK2I appreciate the fact that you establish the purpose of your articlein the introduction. My only suggestionwould be perhaps to reword the sentence so that it doesn’t sound so direct. AV3Faisal, slight contradiction in what you’re recommending here. Onthe one hand, you say the US and Pakistan know each other’s concerns well. Buton the other hand, you say they need to have a candid dialogue. Please clarify. Z4So while both sides are aware of each other’s concerns, but knowingthem isn’t going to move the needle.
Talking candidly about it and attemptingto explore which of concerns can be addressed by each side at minimum cost willmove the needle. Talks about verifiable assurances to address concerns is whatI mean by candid dialogue. AV5Faisal, suggest starting this paragraph with what you’rerecommending the United States and Pakistan do with respect to aid and thenexplain why and its modalities. As currently stated, it’s a bit difficult tofollow.
PK6Hyperlink needed. PK7Hyperlink needed.