High expectations run for the upcoming visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, to the USA on 20 July 2019 for a 5 days trip. It will be his first official visit after becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan. Unlike, previous leaders, who were eager to visit the USA just after taking charge of the office, because they need foreign support, especially from the USA to authenticate their legitimacy and power to rule. PM Imran Khan is a different leader, and not over-ambitious. In fact, previous leaders were always seeking US support to maintain their government’s legitimacy and recognition. But, PM Imran Khan, depends on his people, masses of Pakistan. He enjoys the full support of common people in Pakistan, especially the youth. He is lucky enough to enjoy support from the Military establishment and Judiciary of the country. He gained deep roots inside Pakistan and may not depend on any political support from abroad.
Pakistan believes to maintain good relations with all nations, based on equality, respect, and mutual benefits. Pakistan is a nation of peace lovers and believes the rules set under UN charter for developing relations among nations. Pak-US relations are also no exceptions.
Although the US is one of the first nations that had established diplomatic relations with Islamabad. However, the seven decades of US-Pakistan ties have been far from smooth and experienced many ups and downs.
During the Cold War, Pakistan was a big supporter of the US and protected American vital interests in the region, including during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan was also a close ally in the “war on terror” after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Although Pakistan extended a cordial hand of friendship to the US whenever it needs support, and sacrificed a lot, and heavy price for friendship, but the US always steps back whenever it does not requires Pakistani role in an issue and relations declines. In spite of non-NATO closest ally, Pakistan has faced some of the toughest and strictest US sanctions in history.
The two countries have always cooperated with each other on their common goals and interests, though the US has failed to value Pakistan’s interests and has kept on making demands. “Do more” has been the message of the US leadership in recent years, without understanding Pakistan’s capacity to comply, or its own interests.
During the past few years, the US has blamed, coerced and threatened Pakistan. Of course, there exist some concerns on both sides, and some of these may be genuine, but some are based on misunderstandings only. However, requires to address each other’s concerns seriously and can be resolved easily.
Practically, the US considered the relations were on the project to project basis. Whenever the US needs Pakistan’ support, they extend the hands of friendship and ignore all the differences, while, once the project is over, the objectives were achieved, the real face of the US revealed and sanctions, coercion, and threats were witnessed. It happened not only once, but became the routine normal practice in the past. The Pak-US relations were considered transactional, based on assignment to assignment only.
Currently, the US has been facing a big headache “Afghan Issue”. After fighting for 18 years, spending up to US Dollars trillions, using the most lethal weapons, most sophisticated war techniques, most advanced technologies, best-trained troops, and resources from its allies, NATO, yet could not win in Afghanistan. Currently, 60% of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban. Americans cannot walk freely and fearlessly in the streets of Kabul. They are not safe except inside military camps, like Bagram Air Base. In practical terms, it is the Taliban who rule most of Afghanistan, not the US-supported government of President Ashraf Ghani.
US economy may not be able to sustain such expensive wars anymore. That is why the US has principally decided to pull its troops from Afghanistan and Syria. But wanted to save its face, wanted a safe and honorable exit.
The US tried India for any role in Afghanistan but failed to achieve any objective. The military and civil leadership in the US has realized the pivotal role of Pakistan and reached a conclusion that the US may not be able to achieve its strategic goals in this region, without Pakistan’s vital support. Pakistan is willing to extend its all possible support to resolve Afghan Issues, as long as it is Afghan Led, Afghan Owned and should be sustainable. Pakistan has already helped the US to contact the Taliban directly for peace talks, and several rounds of such talks have been conducted successfully. Pakistan may play an important role in the safe and honored withdrawal of US Troops.
The US president desired to meet the Pakistani new leadership and upon his desires, PM Imran Khan has decided his proposed trip. This visit may carry some extraordinary expectations because it is going to happen under very extraordinary geopolitics prevailing in this region currently.
The US is engaged with China on Trade War, the South China Sea and “Contain China”. While confronting Russia is at its peak, North Korean Issues, Middle-East, especially Iran is hot burning issue of the current era. The US relations with Europe and its impression in the developing world, especially “Islamophobia”.
It is expected that Pakistan may full-fill its needs on Afghan Issues. But Pakistan may ask some kind of permanent friendship based on the guidelines-principles of the UN. Keeping its strategic interests with Russia and China, Pakistan may strengthen its relations with the US. Pakistan may not compromise on its ongoing initiatives for revival of its economy like CPEC/BRI. Pakistan’s strategic interests in SCO may not be compromised. Pakistan would like to meet its security requirements from any country in any form, including S-400. Pakistan may not accept project based relations and will ask persistency and sustainable long term policy based relations. Pakistan may not accept coercion, sanctions, threats, and pressures in any form in the future. It depends on how maturely the US administration responds to Pakistan’s genuine expectation. However, the intellectual circles are optimistic about the expected outcomes of this visit. On the other hand, Pakistan is ruled by better leaders today and understands its strategic interests very well and may not compromise.