BILATERAL ties with the US are clearly on the mend after an extensive rough patch under the PTI government. While the ‘Cablegate’ saga, as elucidated by former prime minister Imran Khan, was an attempt by the superpower to get rid of his government, Washington has repeatedly claimed it had nothing to do with Mr Khan’s removal. Interestingly, there are now reports that Mr Khan’s party is trying to reopen channels with America in an effort to ‘forget the past’. Since the departure of the PTI government, frosty ties have warmed at a quick pace. Pakistan’s foreign minister met his American counterpart in New York in May while later that month the first full-time American ambassador in nearly four years took up his post in Islamabad. More recently, a number of visitors from Washington have been in Pakistan to improve ties. These include the US special representative on business and commercial affairs, as well as the assistant secretary of state dealing with international narcotics and law enforcement.
While the US has undeniably played a role in making and breaking governments across the globe, there is little evidence it hatched the plot to send Mr Khan’s administration home. After all, governments are not destabilised by ciphers; there are other, more sinister methods usually involving intelligence agencies at work to achieve this end. The PTI, unfortunately, played up the Cablegate affair to cater to its domestic vote bank and discredit its opponents. Yet the impact this manoeuvre had on Pakistan-US ties was anything but positive. There is now a need to rebuild bilateral ties and address structural weaknesses that stand in the way of their improvement.
For starters, ties must be based on an equal relationship, stressing respect, particularly for sovereignty, and go beyond the transactionalism that has marked relations since the Cold War era. As a developing country, Pakistan needs American help in realising its full economic potential. The US can help in removing barriers that stand in the way of Pakistani products reaching American markets. Additionally, more American investors should consider putting their money in this country and tapping its human resource potential. Collaborations in academia and other sectors can also be taken forward. The US should also consider restarting the strategic dialogue that Pakistan desires. Yet what Pakistan should not do is take diktat, however subtle, from any foreign power. Who this country trades with; who this country builds political and military alliances with should solely be the decision of its government and people. No foreign power has the right to interfere in these affairs. After all, the double standard is hard to miss if the US lectures Pakistan about not trading with Russia, or the ‘pitfalls’ of CPEC, yet looks the other way if India trades with Moscow. A rejuvenated, beneficial Pakistan-US relationship is worth pursuing, as long as this country is not asked to take sides in global power games.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022