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24 November 2013

US - Pakistan Relations : Long time perspective

Though there can be no two views on the need for the US to respect Pakistan`s borders, ties with Washington cannot be seen through the prism of the drone-dominated discourse alone. Safe havens, 2014, war on terror, the Nato supply line these will soon pass into history, as did Raymond Davis, Salala and Abbottabad. What will not are Pakistan`s geography and America`s long-term economic and geopolitical interests in the region.

The latter comprises the oil-rich Gulf, southwest Asia and the landmass south of the Himalayas. By its very being as a superpower, the US will remain engaged with states in this region for economic and geopolitical reasons. Pakistan must grasp this reality; it must realise the limitations of its elements of national power and project a relationship that will guard its vital economic and security interests in a world in which it has few genuine friends. Misunderstood no doubt, Pakistan must also blame itself for chasing unachievable geopolitical objectives and inviting the suspicion of those who otherwise would have wished it well.

The joint statement issued at the end of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group in Washington on Friday shows that the two sides have not allowed the current irritants in ties to cloud their view of thefuture. The statement pledges the two sides to a strong defence partnership and counterterrorism cooperation even after America withdraws from Afghanistan and says they believe defence links will endure because it is vital to regional and international security. This unanimity of views on a number of issues shouldn`t make us oblivious to the difficulties in the way.

Points of discord between Pakistan and America will always be there, just as they were when they were military allies during the Cold War. The US cannot accept Pakistan`s view of many regional issues, just as Islamabad may find it difficult to endorse many aspects of Washington`s Asia policy. This emphasises the need for developing a fruitful relationship.

With the focus of geopolitical power shifting East, Islamabad must expect a consequent change in American policy towards major Asian players. This makes it incumbent on Pakistan to diversify its economic and defence ties, especially at a time when it faces isolation because of flawed policies.

While the relations with America must grow and stabilise, Islamabad needs to mend fences with India, deepen ties with China, seek greater cooperation with Russia and set its house in order in a way that encourages the world to help make this country a regional economic hub.

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