Two-day National Conference on “Irritants in Pakistan-US Relations: Way Forward”

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Two-day National Conference

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Irritants in Pakistan-US Relations: Way Forward

Introduction

A two-day national conference on “Irritants in Pakistan-US Relations: Way Forward” was organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on October 9-10, 2018 at Marriott Hotel, Islamabad. The conference comprised of four working sessions in addition to inaugural session. Ambassador (R) Inam-UL-Haq, Former Foreign Minister and Chairman, Board of Governors (BOGs), IPRI was the Chief Guest. A total of 8 papers were presented during the conference. The presentations made by the eminent scholars covered various themes ranging from ‘Pakistan-US Relations’ to ‘Identifying Factors of Trust Deficit in Pakistan-US Relations’ and from ‘Approaches to Overcome Trust Deficit’ to ‘Pakistan-US Relations: Way Forward.’ With the aim to identify and discuss the major irritants that impede the normalization of the Pakistan-US ties and suggest a future course of action that could pave the way for at least a sustainable, if not, strong relationship. The detailed version of the conference proceedings in the form of “IPRI Book” will be shared with the Research and Coordination Cell (RCC) after 3-4 months.

Concept Note

Pakistan and the United States (US) established diplomatic relations on October 20, 1947. Pakistan remained part of the US-led defence pacts, i.e. Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Pakistan also played a pivotal role in US-China rapprochement in the early 1970s. The two sides witnessed the closest partnership and cooperation during the 1980s, when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 where Pakistan helped the US and international community. After the 9/11 tragic terrorist incidents on mainland US, Pakistan once again joined hands with the US and the international community in combating the then-global war on terror (GWoT). Pakistan was also accorded a “major non-NATO ally” status in recognition of being a “frontline state” in the GWoT.

In spite of all the cooperation, the bilateral relationship between the two states has never been smooth. Overall, the Pakistan-US relationship has not been based on an equal footing, rather has remained need-based and on-off trajectory. There have been times when “great expectations” turned into “great frustrations” and strong engagement was followed by disengagement. At present, this relationship suffers from mutual mistrust, which runs deep and is characteristic of divergent approaches and interests in the region. President Donald Trump’s August 2017 speech on “South Asia and Afghanistan” and his “New Year Tweet” have not helped to bridge the differences.

The main source of concern between the two countries is the Afghan conundrum. While both have a declared policy of supporting reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, there appears to be serious differences on how to achieve it. The suspension of Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan and the US taking the lead in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to put Pakistan on the grey list have further strained bilateral ties. Growing US-India relations in total disregard of Pakistan’s legitimate security interests add to bilateral irritants and complexities.

Be that as it may, there is the strong realization in Islamabad that despite the recent setbacks, including the placing of restrictions on the movement of Pakistani diplomats in the US, the two countries should not allow the bilateral relationship to descend into an irredeemable situation. A complete disengagement will not serve either party. Against this backdrop, the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) organised a Two-Day National Conference on “Irritants in Pakistan-US Relations: Way Forward.”

Conference Proceedings

Inaugural Session

In his welcome address, Brig (R) Sohail Tirmizi SI(M), Acting President, Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad said that it was the policy of IPRI to organize national and international conferences on emerging political trends. He said that the present time has come for focusing on a state-to-state relationship based on sovereign equality, rather than one which is based on expediency of personal interests and agendas. He was of the view that Pakistan needs to realize, what is important is not what we are required to do, but what is in our own national interest.

He explained that the Pakistan-US engagement spans over seven decades. Pakistan has remained a major non-NATO ally. The convergence of interest between the two countries is pivotal to their alliance. He pointed out that the US and Pakistan divergence over regional issues has widened the strategic gap between the two former Cold War allies.

He said that President Trump in his ‘20 August Speech’ gave an overview of the US policy towards South Asia, the policy primarily revolved around India and Afghanistan, and the US looked into the region through the prism of these two countries. The US approach towards the region is a security centric.

He emphasized that the stability in Afghanistan, which is essential for regional peace, requires a holistic approach covering security and economic concerns. He further added that Pakistan cannot be isolated from the region. Therefore, the US and Pakistan relationship is also important for regional peace, both the countries need to understand each other’s security concerns and work in connivance to mitigate the trans-regional threats.

Ambassador (R) Inam-UL-Haq, Former Foreign Minister and Chairman, Board of Governors (BOGs), IPRI, the Chief Guest of the Conference, in his inaugural address said that the conference is timely and important since it provides an opportunity to assess the present state of the relations with the US and their future trajectory in the wake of the recent meetings in Washington of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, with the American Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

He pointed out that the interstate relations in today’s world are complex and symbiotic. It is not possible to compartmentalize them or look at them in isolation. He emphasized that the bilateral relations between the US and Pakistan need to be seen in the backdrop of the policy objectives and actions of the US in the region and the world at large. He highlighted that the US has no intention of allowing a challenge to its primacy in the world by any country, including China. It will use all the means at its disposal to remain the undisputed and sole super power of the world. Full spectrum domination is its primary objective.

He further added that the US and China are already engaged in the battle for resources – particularly energy and minerals, in Africa and elsewhere. The ongoing trade war of the US against China, the US opposition to Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) along with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the growing confrontations in the South China Sea are merely a reflection of this rivalry and competition. The US is also engaged in acquiring allies all around China.

He warned that the rebalancing to Asia Pacific, now renamed the “Indo-Pacific”, has the primary objective of keeping China in check. As it apparent from the name Indo-Pacific, it refers to India’s larger role in Asia Pacific. The Quad involving the US, Japan, India and Australia is already in place. He prophesied that Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries like Singapore and South Korea may join the US if push comes to shove.

He explained that foreign policy cannot be made on self-delusion, denial and false assumptions. Rather, the foreign policy framers have to be clear eyed, objective and logical, and must factor into policy making the complex strategic, political and economic developments and the constantly emerging new equations.

He said that without an autonomous economy, no country can have an autonomous foreign policy. That is why, he stressed, both the US and China are super powers and Pakistan needs to maintain cordial relations with both the players. He further added that the CPEC, a multi-faceted economic project, is a manifestation of China support to Pakistan.

He acknowledged that the US is equally important for our economic well-being. It is a major trading partner and export destination for Pakistani goods. He identified that the bilateral trade between the two countries has crossed US $ 6 billion, with the balance of trade being in Pakistan’s favour by about US $ 800 million.

He highlighted that the strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the US, which was initiated during the Obama Administration, is unlikely to be resumed in original form. Therefore, Pakistan requires to find alternative ways to move forward on the issues that are of interest to it.

He emphasized that the relations with the US are vital for Pakistan because the former has influence in the decision making process of international financial organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. He further added that the US remains the most important relationship for Pakistan, since it has the maximum capacity to help the latter and also to inflict pain and damage directly as well as through proxies.

Session-I

Ambassador (R) Shamshad Ahmed, Former Foreign Secretary gave a talk on “Overview of Pakistan-US Relations: Strengths and Weaknesses.” He discussed the importance of foreign policy. He argued that the foreign policy has no manuscript like trade or custom policy. In actuality, it is the external reflection of a country’s internal well-being. He underscored that an economically vibrant and militarily strong country will have more diplomatic say, while a political actor having fragile economy, will have lesser international role. The example of the Soviet Union was cited that how the domestic weaknesses resulted in the collapse of former super power globally.

On the Pakistan-US relations, he stated that both the players despite having differences in political standing have remained ally partners. Ambassador Shamshad explained that the US interest in the region largely stemmed from defeating Communism during the Cold War, in later years, terrorism was seen as a potent security challenge. He pointed out that Pakistan being a neighbouring Afghan country held significance in the US policy circles.

However, there is a gradual downward trend in the bilateral relations. Pakistan once looked upon as a “staunch ally” of the US, is now being viewed as a “troublesome friend”. The post-9/11 political construct is reflective of this trend.

He emphasized that the change in the US policy towards Pakistan needs to be seen in the region and global contexts. The US involvement in world theatres including South Asia is aimed at pursuing goals. Currently, other than Afghanistan, the US is concerned about China’s phenomenal rise. The US inclination towards India, calling the latter for a larger regional role in Afghanistan (and the region at large) is also to counter China.

He further added that the US preferential treatment to India in the security and nuclear realm is of major concern to Pakistan, as it has widened the nuclear disparity between the two neighbours. Meanwhile, under the US presence, India has a free hand in Afghanistan, thus, further complicating the security situation. He stressed that Pakistan, in view of its location, needs to have peace in Afghanistan, and for that matter efforts should be undertaken to make the US aware of the sense of security.

Ambassador Shamshad referred to the flaws in Pakistan’s foreign policy. He blamed the political leadership for preferring personal interest over the country’s interest. He suggested that the political leadership should uphold the interest of Pakistan and the relations must be based on sovereign equality.

He concluded that the future of Pakistan solely rests upon the people, it is their choice whether they want to be known as Iran of 1979 or as “democratic liberal secular Islamic state”. Pakistan has to be stable politically and economically self-reliant to thwart the elements opposed to the country’s existence growth.

Ambassador (R) Riaz Khokhar, Former Foreign Secretary, spoke on “Understanding the Making of US Foreign Policy and Pakistan.” The presentation began with the statement of Henry Kissinger: “It is bad to be the US enemy and worst to be its friend.” He explained that the US foreign policy is complex subject as the super power’s involvement in world theatres. The foreign policy is not the domain of a particular institution, rather, the President’s office, Congress, Senate, Pentagon and the intelligence agencies contribute towards the foreign policy framework. As per the constitution, the US President is the Commander-in-Chief, and is responsible for the foreign policy. Meanwhile, the power to deploy troops abroad needs to have prior approval of the Congress, thus, the Congressional powers balance the Presidential domination.

Ambassador Riaz also referred to the dominating role of the Presidential power and the failure of Congressional powers in exercising legislation. The result had been an imbalanced power equation. In support of the argument, he referred to the book: “War on Peace the End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence” (by Ronan Farrow). He said that the book throws light on how the Presidential powers have systematically destroyed the State Department and its functioning.

He pointed out that the US foreign policy over the years is more militarily driven and the role of diplomats in policy formulation has been considerably marginalized. He further added that the non-diplomatic tone used by the US to deal with countries like North Korea “they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before” (book “Fire and Furry” by Michael Wolff) has heightened the security threat.

Explaining the role of think tanks in building up perceptions and biases in the US policy circles, he stated that retired diplomats as part of the think tank community give inputs in policy formulation. Besides, there are many lobbies working in the country, who indirectly impact the foreign policy relations.

He highlighted that the Indian diaspora has become strong over the years, they are part of the academia, and through their writings have become influential. The Indian nuclear lobby has successfully won their country’s case for nuclear weapons. The human rights lobby is another active group, raising voice, in favour of democracy, and other similar practices.

While talking about Pakistan’s presence in the intelligentsia, he identified that there is no representation, the country lacked voice in the US policy quarters. The vacuum left is being filled in by the Indians and other similar voices. Pakistan’s portrayal as a terrorist country is widely being accepted. He emphasized that in order to project its voice and to negate the negativity linked with its image, Pakistan requires representation in the international think tank community and academia (as well as in government departments). The aim should be to reach out to the appropriate corners and audience.

He concluded that to rebuild the trust deficit, Pakistan needs to put in diplomatic efforts to win over the US confidence, and to assure that Pakistan’s efforts in restoring peace in Afghanistan are in the larger interest of the region.

Session-II

Dr. Salma Malik, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad gave a presentation on “Relationship between Regional Actors (especially India-Pakistan) and Role of US. She pointed out that Pakistan since its creation had a West oriented foreign policy. The country had remained part of SEATO and CENTO. It had also been the recipient of US military and economic aid. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were also developed during this time. Rather, the Americans knew about Pakistan’s nuclear programme, but they kept quiet because they had other strategic gain to achieve in the Afghan war (against the former Soviet Union). She further added that on part of Pakistan, development of nuclear weapons on the sidelines of the Afghan war was a “smart strategy” and it turned out to be a success.

She said that in the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan was granted the non-NATO ally status, which again brought the country into the US calculus. While looking at the impact of Afghan wars on the region in general and Pakistan, in particular, she highlighted that the extremist tendencies and militant threat have plagued the politico-security environment. Pakistan being the neighbouring Afghan country has to bear the maximum fallouts of the war. Dr. Malik opined that Pakistan (like Iran) should have adopted a more restrictive policy towards Afghanistan refugees.

She appeared critical of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts, and referred to the country’s isolation during the Kargil episode. She identified that India has made diplomatic inroads in Western circles. The Indian narrative on regional security, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has widespread acceptance. She emphasized that to allay the negativity, Pakistan needs to gear up its diplomatic channels, and look for innovative ways (“multi-tracked diplomacy”), to win over the international audience. She further added that this is the need of the hour, without a robust diplomatic force, Pakistan will not be able to prove to the outside world, that the country’s nuclear weapons are safe under a strong Command and Control system.

At the regional front, Pakistan and India’s regional positioning was assessed, it was leveled that the latter, apt to its economic growth is seen by the foreign players as an influential political actor. India’s economic ties with China, relations with Russia and partnership with the US are a testament to this.

She identified that the convergence of interest between India and the US, owing to both players’ opposition to China has imparted greater vigour to the bilateral partnership. India is a pivot to the US policy in Asia.

Explaining Pakistan-China relations, she said that the CPEC is an important regional development; it will not only strengthen the bilateral axis, but will also give an impetus to China’s regional role. At the regional front, their relations are being translated as a balancer against the US-India alliance.

Dr. Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar, Peshawar, spoke on “Promoting Pakistan-US Cooperation in Countering Extremism.” He said that the US involvement in Afghanistan, during the Cold War and war against terrorism, has been in pursuance of its own vested interest. He pointed out that the peace in Afghanistan or the regional agenda has never been a priority in the US strategic pursuit.

In fact, the Cold War was fought against the Communism, and Pakistan as part of the Capitalist bloc fought alongside the US. Thereby, Pakistan was executing the US agenda. Resultantly, the war against the former Soviet Union witnessed the nurturing of jihadi groups in Pakistan. This has also provoked extremist tendencies in the region.

Looking at South Asia, he said that the region is one of the least integrated, with poverty, and security issues common to all the regional countries. Explaining the security situation in Afghanistan, he said that the country has seen war for decades, and still it is witnessing fighting. Thus, to defeat extremism, the policy other than focusing on military option, should also work towards negotiations. He stated that the extremist factions in Afghanistan, keen for talks, should be taken on board.

While commenting on the Pakistan-US relations, Dr. Soherwordi said that Pakistan has been at the forefront of the war against terrorism. Leaving the country alone with a few accusations is not the solution to the problem. More economic and financial assistance to Pakistan will contribute to the emergence of a more tolerant society. He cautioned that the US putting Pakistan in the grey list of the FATF will be counterproductive.

He stressed that the US policy towards Pakistan should not revolve Afghanistan and Indian perspective, rather, Washington should look at Pakistan in the larger regional context. On part of Pakistan, the country should try to address the US regional concerns. The US policy in the region is to balance out other regional players, and to maintain its ascendancy. Pakistan should try to be a part of the inclusive regional oriented approach, he added.

Session-III

Dr. Tughral Yamin, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad, gave a presentation on “Afghanistan Crisis and Pakistan-US Disagreements on Operational Aspects of Countering Terrorism.  In his presentation, he emphasized more on the disagreements on diplomatic aspects rather than operational aspects in countering terrorism. He opined that for the most part, the US sees its relationship with Pakistan as transactional, whereby, Pakistan has not delivered on its part of the bargain, which is beyond the its national interest. However, he argued that the relationship has had its fair share of high points as well. For instance, Pakistan and the US had a starry eyed relationship during Ayub’s era, which lasted till the 1965 war. He explained that different circumstances, such as the war in Afghanistan or counterterrorism efforts create expectations, which do not match leading to trust deficit and souring of relations – evident in Pakistan-US relations.

Dr. Tughral was also wary of the recent “reset in relations” proposed by the US Administration. He prescribed to the view that “reset in relations” is just a buzzword. The US wants Pakistan to do more of the same. Rather, it wants to create a hierarchy in the region with India at the top and not necessarily upgrade its relationship with Pakistan.

 He exemplified that the call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo exposed the stark difference in their discussion, which shows the complete divergence of interests between the two countries. Explaining the aspirations of the major stakeholders in the Afghan conflict, he identified that the US wants a face saving exit from Afghanistan, Pakistan wants a stable government in Afghanistan and the Afghan government wants to survive at all cost. 

Professor Dr. Rasul Baksh Rais, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, spoke on “Pakistan-US Relations under Trump Administration: Continuity or Change.He started his presentation by dispelling some common misperceptions that seem to have seeped into the Pakistan-US relations discourse. First, he argued that Pakistan needs to do away with the flawed argument that both, Pakistan and the US do not have any common interest. Interestingly, both the countries had a common interest as evident during the 90’s against the Soviet Union and then against terrorism (post 9/11).

            He emphasized that Pakistan and the US will have to find a new common ground to repair their relations. Rather, ambiguity for too long will lead to the further trust deficit between the two countries. He dismissed the notion that Pakistan has not benefited from the relationship and has been manipulated by the US. He argued that states are rational actors and relations are always negotiated, so Pakistan needs to stop looking at this relationship from the manipulation angle.

         While commenting on the on-going Afghan war, he said that it cannot be won decisively and there will not be any clear winners. He predicted that the duel strategy of the US – talks and fight simultaneously – will continue as the country is compelled by the conviction of its commitment. The Afghan Taliban, he said, believe in raising the cost of occupation of the US forces, but they, too, are becoming unsure of their own victory. Consequently, they showed their willingness for directly engaging with the US.

            Commenting on Pakistan seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan, he explained that strategic depth was not an offensive military doctrine, but a defensive strategy, which sought to ensure that Afghanistan’s territory could not be used against Pakistan. Rather, this was a legitimate concern. However, development of a nuclear deterrent Pakistan has rendered this strategy ineffective.

Session-IV

Ms. Nasim Zehra, Author and Journalist (Channel 24) spoke on “Accommodating Mutual Concerns: Prospects (US Perspective).She said that there is a relationship paradigm that cannot be ignored when analyzing Pakistan-US relations. According to the relationship paradigm, interstate relations are dependent on: first, a country’s experiences over time and second, critical events, which may force a country to change the attitude over an issue. She further explained that some of the issues include the war in Afghanistan, different regional threat perceptions (the United States disregard for Pakistan’s security concerns vis-à-vis India), and concerns over Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons and field tactical weapons. Within this relationship paradigm, she emphasized that history cannot be ignored. Historically, the US wanted India to become an ally during the 50’s, but could not succeed due to India’s Non Aligned Movement. This increased Pakistan’s strategic importance for the US that led to military alliances such as SEATO and the CENTO. During the 90’s, Pakistan became important for the US again owing to the Soviet threat in Afghanistan.

She pointed out that the US wants to downsize the relationship. It will not change its condescending and arrogant attitude because it feels it can afford it, owing to its strategic partnership with India in the region, she added. Hence, the recalibration of this relationship remains in the hands of Pakistan, not the US.

Ms. Nasim was of the view that China and the CPEC do not figure highly in the belligerent attitude of the US towards Pakistan. The Afghan conundrum is the bone of contention for the US. She emphasized that Pakistan needs to ask itself that why its ally (US) does not factor in its biggest strategic threat (India) and the answer would lie in the wrong decisions taken by Pakistan in the past.

Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqi, Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, gave a presentation on “Accommodating Mutual Concerns: Prospects (Pakistan Perspective).” He highlighted that unlike popular opinion, Pakistan has been able to exercise its autonomy whilst being allied to the US. He referred to Pakistan’s growing relations with China during the 1950’s and 1960’s as a case in point.

He emphasized that Pakistan will have to learn to navigate between the US and China without picking a side. He explained that Pakistan and the US have concentrated too much on national interests while looking at their bilateral relations. Instead, both countries need to go beyond national interests and adopt an ideational identity-based framework, which may improve Pakistan’s image in the US. For instance, Pakistan could make a concerted effort to sustain its democratic dispensation, which leads to convergences with the Western model and improve Pakistan’s image as a progressive, modern and democratic state.

While referring to the mutual concerns of both countries, he pointed out that the on-going war in Afghanistan is a bottleneck in improving bilateral relations between Pakistan and the US.

Explaining the Pakistan’s measures in improving the security situation in the country, he said that it has taken many important steps such as fencing its western border to ensure that cross-border terrorist activities could be curtailed. The country has also legally mainstreamed the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to ensue socioeconomic development, which would act as a bulwark against extremism and terrorism. All these steps go unappreciated by the US because the country is pursuing a “self-serving narrative” to justify domestically of its failure in Afghanistan.

Vote of Thanks

Brig (R) Sohail Tirmizi SI(M), Acting President IPRI, thanked the distinguished chairpersons, speakers and participants for their enthusiastic participation. He said that the conference discussions were exhaustive and extremely productive in highlighting various challenges and the prospects for improving the Pakistan-US relationship. The discourse over the last two days has been cohesive, intellectually rewarding and practical, and will be shared with policymakers within the Government of Pakistan. He hoped that the conference deliberations would be useful for the policy makers. He also informed that the proceedings of the conference would be compiled and published in the form of a book in the next few months.

Conclusions/Recommendations

  1. The US and China are established powers and none should be preferred over another. Being friends with China and non-NATO ally with the US in the war against terrorism, the foreign policy maneuverings demand a balanced approach in maintaining Pakistan’s relations with both the countries.
  2. The bilateral relations of Pakistan and the US have mostly remained transactional. The primary focus of their relations also revolved around security and defence matters. In order to ‘reset’ the relations as one normal, the policy-makers must focus on the economic front. States with autonomous and strong economy enjoy strong and autonomous foreign policy. In this regard, Pakistan besides security-driven agenda must engage the US in economic initiatives. Such an approach would not only enhance the American economic stakes in Pakistan, but would provide stability to the bilateral relations as well.
  3. In order to enhance Pakistan’s support abroad and the US particularly, there is a dire need to run an aggressive diplomatic campaign with the underlined message that Pakistan desires to cooperate with the US provided if ambitions are sought on the basis of sovereign equality and state-to-state mutual interests.
  4. As the situation in Afghanistan remains to be a critical factor in the Pakistan-US bilateral relations, both the countries need to adopt ‘a regional approach’ to find a solution. For instance, all the regional countries have their vested interests in Afghanistan, which can only be achieved with greater stability in the country. As part of the regional approach, a group of Afghanistan’s near and far neighbours, including Russia, China, Central Asian States, Pakistan and Iran must be constituted. This group could help states understand each other’s stake and interests associated with the long-term stability in Afghanistan and outline mechanisms to not only ensure their materialization, but also the revival of peace in Afghanistan, which is a pre-requisite.
  5. With seventeen years long occupation, Afghanistan is seen as a primary area of convergence between the US and Pakistan. It is a good sign that the US is engaging the Afghan Taliban directly for the first time, but it also renders Pakistan as one critical factor for stabilizing peace in Afghanistan at the same time. Therefore, the repeated call for a political solution to the Afghan crisis, Pakistan must revitalize its people-to-people relations, exchange programmes, economic activities and security assistance. Besides the regulation and monitoring of western border, Pakistan must issue proper permits to Afghan brothers to enter Pakistan for work/study purposes.
  6. Think-tanks and lobbies play an important role in the formulation of the US foreign policy. In fact, the US foreign policy towards Pakistan carries a certain imprint especially propagated by the anti-Pakistan think-tanks and lobbies. Therefore, the policy-makers in Pakistan must invest in meaningful bilateral engagement between Pakistani and American think-tanks and lobbies to create favourable voices for US-Pakistan relations along with enhancing the capacity building of local think-tanks and intellectuals in Pakistan. Simultaneously, efforts must also be dedicated by Pakistan’s Foreign Office to empower the Pakistani American community abroad as well.
  7. The mistrust in Pakistan-US relations needs to be transformed into a more balanced and trustworthy relationship. Strengthening these bonds will advance Pakistan-US shared goals of security, stability and prosperity in South Asia. In order to do so, former diplomatic channels need be strengthened, but their strength could only be guaranteed if there is holistic, multi-track diplomacy that works to ameliorate the US perception about Pakistan.
  8. Pakistan’s new strategy vis-à-vis the US as well as in South Asia should be the combination of all three instruments of policy such as diplomatic, economic and political for a successful outcome. Any selective instrument will be incomplete phenomena and counterproductive.
  9. The fundamental recalibration of the Pakistan-US relationship lies in Pakistan hands. Therefore, Pakistan has to cut down its expectations from the US and it has to work hard in improving its relationship with its neighbours as well. For example, the current Afghan, Pakistan Action Plan for Peace is a welcome step. Though this is not the first time when such initiatives are being realized, but one has to keep trying.
  10. Afghanistan, today, presents the best opportunity to recalibrate Pakistan-US relations and accommodate mutual concerns. The traditional Pakistan stance has been to negotiate with the Taliban as the most viable strategy. However, military strategy needs to go side by side with the political reconciliation strategy. In this regard, Pakistan could gain a lot if this strategy becomes successful at the end of the day. It is not an easy task as radical compromises have to be made; trade-offs have been to be negotiated; Afghan Taliban would have to let go of their countrywide ambitions of controlling governance; Afghan Taliban has to accept the Afghan constitution in its entirety; and Afghan Taliban have to renounce militancy as a form of gaining political objectives. This is where Pakistan, at the present time, tends to gain the most. This is the historical opportunity for Pakistan to yield at this moment of time.

    Disclaimer:
     Views expressed are of the speakers and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.

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