WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan need to rebuild a modest but pragmatic relationship, based on mutual respect for each other’s interests, and not on exaggerated expectations, says a report released on Tuesday.

The report, prepared by a dozen American scholars of South Asian affairs associated with the Pakistan Study Group (PSG), Washington, has been released a day before Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is expected to meet US scholars and think-tank experts at the Pakistan Embassy.

The paper warns American policy makers that they cannot afford to walk away from a country that involves three key regions — South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East — and has borders with China and Iran and is close to Russia.

The authors include a former US secretary of state for South Asia, two former US ambassadors to Pakistan, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US and other senior diplomats who have worked in Pakistan, and American scholars specialising in South Asia.

According to this paper, a modest, pragmatic relationship between the US and Pakistan would involve understanding that Pakistan and the US will “continue to see Afghanistan through different lens but can cooperate in maintaining peace in that country and alleviating its people’s suffering”.

It also reminds American policymakers that “attitudes toward India at both the elite and popular levels in Pakistan will, at best, change slowly”.

The report also notes that “public opinion in both the US and Pakistan acts as constraints on bilateral relations”.

The United States, however, can still induce Pakistan to change its overall strategic calculus, which is based on Pakistan’s understanding of its security environment, it added.

The paper acknowledges that the United States and Pakistan have divergent views on China and recommends “a more nuanced US policy on Pakistan”.

The authors argue that the US engagement with Pakistan would benefit if it were based on a realistic appraisal of Pakistan’s policies, aspirations, and worldview.

“There is a need to acknowledge that inducements or threats will not result in securing change in Pakistan’s strategic direction,” the authors warn.

They remind Washington that “it is not in American national security interests to isolate Pakistan or irreparably breach the relationship.

But a normalisation of Pakistan’s cooperation with the US remains in the US national interest”.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2022

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