Dhaka, Bangladesh
Functional Pakistan-US relationship would augur well for peace

Functional Pakistan-US relationship would augur well for peace

During the Cold War, Pakistan-US relations were warm and co-operative. However, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Pakistan became "the most sanctioned ally" - mainly due to its expanding nuclear program. Having said that, their relations again moved in an upward trajectory after 9/11, as Pakistan agreed to extend vital cooperation for the US in its war against Al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost the US heavily in terms of men and money, and it has not been successful in achieving its major goals in Afghanistan. The US is now apparently shifting the blame to Pakistan. In a New Year's Day tweet, US President Donald Trump alleged Pakistan was playing a double game in Afghanistan despite America's assistance of $33 billion since 9/11. Pakistan believes that the economic and security assistance figures quoted by the president were off the mark. As a matter of fact, the bulk of these payments were reimbursements for Pakistani anti-terror operations in the tribal areas and logistical support for the US in its war against terror. Total annual US aid to Pakistan now hovers at around a billion dollars and Pakistan thinks it can do without it, its economic challenges notwithstanding. If Pakistan was to fulfill the US demand to "do more," the war would spill over the border from Afghanistan, and Islamabad is in no mood to fight a US war on its own territory. Any escalation in the current situation must be checked, as a scenario where there is no lasting peace in Afghanistan is possible without dialogue between all warring factions. Pakistani leadership, both civil and military, believes that it has played a robust role in the war against terror and that should be internationally acknowledged. Islamabad has largely cleared its tribal areas of terror outfits in an effort spanning more than three years. This was no mean achievement and it took its toll in terms of 6,000 security personnel killed. Pakistan had been demanding for years that the Afghanistan border should be fenced and Afghan refugees repatriated as soon as possible, but neither Kabul nor Washington heeded its warning. This sane advice would, if implemented, have saved many precious lives in Afghanistan. The US is still Pakistan's largest trading partner, while Pakistan offers the shortest route for supplies to reach the US forces in Afghanistan. A situation where there is no lasting peace in Afghanistan is possible without dialogue between all warring factions, including the Taliban, who control vast chunks of Afghan territory. Pakistan cannot be oblivious to its international responsibilities, as terrorism is an international problem that has to be fought collectively. In fact, it should have asked the US intelligence apparatus to share information on the Haqqani network's movements across the border and its alleged safe havens in Pakistan. A frayed Pakistan-US relationship will not help regional peace. That is why any escalation in the current situation must be checked not only by the two nations but by their friends as well, as friendly nations could facilitate back channel diplomacy. Pakistan should explain its efforts for peace to the world at large through an active engagement with the American and European media. A peaceful Afghanistan is in Pakistan's national interest. Similarly, friendly relations with all neighbors are a prerequisite for Pakistan's economic development, and the US is now Pakistan's fifth neighbor as its departure from Afghanistan is open-ended. Pakistan-US re-engagement and a functional relationship would augur well for peace, as Islamabad can play a role there. Pro-active but quiet diplomacy would be far more productive than futile rhetoric. o Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst.

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