Ahead of PM Khan’s Meet With President Trump, Thought Leaders Suggest Way Forward in Pak-US Relations

‘US should also talk to India to have serious dialogue  with Pakistan’: Khaled Almaeena

DESPARDES — The U.S. policy of coercion towards Pakistan is gradually progressing towards cooperation, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at a Pak-US relations-centric seminar in capital Islamabad this week.

Speaking at the conference titled ‘Pak-U.S. Relations: The Way Forward’, Qureshi said the bipartisan consensus within the US towards Pakistan is changing, and both countries are gradually moving towards evolving a mutually beneficial, constructive and cooperative approach in their relations.

During his key note address, the Foreign Minister said Prime Minister Khan’s first visit to the United States offers the leadership of both countries new opportunities towards resetting the bilateral relationship and it will also enable Pakistan to build its narrative and counter the propaganda being carried out against Pakistan by one of the neighbors.

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PM Khan is expected to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on July 22. Trump’s press statement said he looks forward to the visit to discuss ‘South Asia peace’ and establishing ‘enduring partnership’ — a calculated timely U-turn as US doffs military strategy in Afghanistan for political solution– both Trump and Khan have been saying so prior to their election wins.

U.S. has also appreciated Pakistan’s key role in facilitating the process of intra-Afghan and regional dialogue, said Qureshi.

Key aspects of the Pak-U.S. relations: diplomatic, security and economic dimensions of the bilateral ties were discussed by various thought-leaders.

Former Foreign Secretary and Ex. Ambassador to U.S. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry analyzed the diplomatic aspect of the two countries, former Secretary Defense Lt. Gen (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik reviewed the security relations, while Muhammad Kamran Nasir, Chief Executive Officer of the JS Global Capital Ltd evaluated the economic dimension of the relations.

Amb. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said U.S. perspective towards Pakistan is shaped by the Afghanistan lens and increasingly from the Chinese lens. “Therefore, it is important for Pakistan to impress upon the U.S. leadership that Islamabad’s relations with China are not poised against any other State.”

“Both countries must attempt to revive and sustain bilateral dialogue process to deepen the relationship and move beyond occasional visits.”

Pakistani leadership should also warn Washington that conflict with Iran is not in the regional interest, Chaudhry added.

Lt General (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik said that Pakistan’s future policy towards the United States must be guided based on history. He said, “Pakistan’s foreign policy must be primarily based on advancing the economic interests, which is the main guarantor of national security.”

Mr. Malik pointed out that Pakistan’s dependence on the U.S. for meeting its military needs has significantly reduced and American sanctions helped Pakistan diversify and find indigenous solutions to meet its defense needs.

“Military to military relations should not be the main driver of the bilateral Pak-U.S. relationship. Diversified sources of military technology and indigenization should be Pakistan’s policy approach towards meeting its future defense needs.”

Mr. Muhammad Kamran Nasir stated that the world expects Pakistan to emerge as the world’s twentieth top economy by the year 2030 and Islamabad should pursue a meaningful dialogue with the U.S., based on close coordination between the strategic and economic dimensions of foreign policy. |Pakistan must build an export-led economy but that will require major structural reforms and timely and effectively tapping of fleeting opportunities being offered by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”, Mr. Nasir said.

“CPEC represents investment in communication and energy sectors but a significant part of its technical support is coming from the US companies like Caterpillar and General Electric.”

Mr. Nasiir stated that United States offers Pakistan one its largest export markets, which have immense potential of expansion in textile, medical, plastics and several other sectors. “Pakistan earns more than $3.4 billion in export remittances from the United States, which are showing steady growth. Islamabad can also benefit from the American technology in the agriculture sector by improving the crop yield through modern irrigation and water management systems.”

“U.S. also offers Pakistan significant export opportunities in the IT and telecom sectors, Mr. Nasir pointed out.

Amb. Muhammad Sadiq stated that the conflict in Afghanistan has created a new elite that has no interest in peace in the country. “Pakistan must support a united Afghanistan. However, even if all parties agree to bring peace but its implementation will remain a big challenge particularly if a single ethnic group dominates others.”

According to Mr. Sadiq, Afghan history indicates that the victor seldom shows mercy for others. “The U.S. has decided to withdraw its military but it will maintain residual presence in the country.”

In his remarks, security and defense expert Syed Muhammad Ali stated that since 9/11 the damage to Pakistan’s economy was eight times more than the stringent economic assistance it has received from the United States.
“Pakistan must pacify the U.S. leadership that its relationship with China is not against the United States. In contrast, Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy is both unrealistic towards India and dangerous for South Asian strategic stability and peace.”

The expert stressed that U.S. policy towards South Asia deserves a timely review in order to ensure lasting peace, security and stability, which is in Washington’s interest.  “In fact, U.S. should see Pakistan as a bridge for peace and prosperity between Washington and China.”

Earlier, Executive Director Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) Professor Sajjad Bokhari in his welcome address said that for a meaningful change in the complexion of bilateral ties, US needed to review its Indo-Pacific Strategy, address Pakistan’s security concerns, and stop seeing China-Pakistan relations, particularly CPEC as a challenge. He called for immediate resumption of Pak–US strategic dialogue as a first step towards a larger process of trust building and cooperation. He underscored that both sides must recommit to the principles of mutual respect and finding common ground on issues of mutual interest.

Speaking to DesPardes, Mr. Khaled Almaeena, the former Editor-in-Chief Arab News and Saudi Gazette, welcomed the seminar and Khan and Trump’s upcoming meet. “Pak  US relations and cooperation are important to the region.”
Almaenna said Pakistan’s “foreign policy should be independent and guided solely by interest of peace.”

“US should also talk to India to have serious dialogue  with Pakistan,” Almaeena added.

Khans trip to Washington comes as his government makes concerted efforts to address fiscal management and economic reforms issues including targets set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). And Trump’s overture for talks with its one-time ally comes as the US enters critical phase of talks with Taliban for Afghan peace and its withdrawal plan.

Media report this week speculated that President Trump may have set the tone for re-run in the 2020 presidential elections– with his ” racially divisive reprise” strategy that helped him “narrowly capture the White House in 2016.”