- Difficult decisions ahead
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Secretary of State Pompeo started off on the wrong foot in their first interaction leading to certain claims by one side and contradictions by the other. The State Department said Pompeo wanted Pakistan to take decisive action against all terrorists operating in the country. Pakistan FO rejected the statement in strong words calling it “factually incorrect.” This sets the tone for the talks between the two sides when Imran Khan meets Pompeo early next month. The incident indicates that both sides will have to work hard to be able to forge a productive working relationship with each other.
Imran Khan told the Foreign Office that he does not want confrontation with any country and that there would be no compromise on national interests. What national interests are should however be defined only by the Parliament. One expects the PTI government to take significant steps towards improving Pakistan’s relations with the neighbouring countries. It remains to be seen if the new PM is able to overcome resistance from powerful circles to improvement of relations with certain neighbours.
Over the years Khan has shown a remarkable flexibility sometime marked by about turns. From opposing to fight “America’s war” in exchange for aid, to “balanced relationship” with the US is just one example. He tweeted on Tuesday that “Pakistan and India must dialogue and resolve their conflicts including Kashmir… and start trading”. With his advocacy of open borders with Afghanistan, many across the western border consider Khan as a man who can bring the two countries together. The PM has also offered mediation between Saudi Arabia in Iran.
During the next one hundred days it will become clear how far Imran Khan is able to assert himself. Besides the US Secretary of State, foreign ministers of China, Iran and Japan are scheduled to visit Islamabad next month. This is an indication of the rise of a multipolar world with new opportunities and challenges for Pakistan. A groundbreaking improvement in relations with neighbours would reduce hostility in the region which benefits Pakistan. Keeping the animosity alive would be a setback for Pakistan and would show that Imran Khan is a part of the status quo.