- The need to improve relations
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CJCSC General Joseph F. Dunford are arriving at a time when Pak-US relations are in a tailspin, with fears being expressed that the ties might be reaching a tipping point. After President Trump’s threatening new year day message, the US has taken a series of punitive measures that include suspension of at least $900 million US security assistance in January, getting Pakistan grey listed by the FATF, canceling training and educations programmes for military officers and threatening to block IMF bailout. The movement of each other’s diplomats inside the two countries remains restricted. Washington has spelt out new terms of engagement which require Pakistan to back the US strategy in Afghanistan, improve relations with India and reduce economic reliance on China.
The differences between Pakistan and the US are well-known. Washington continues to claim that Pakistan’s security establishment harbours the Haqqani network and the Taliban Shura. It demands that Pakistan work with the US to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and arrest or expel those who do not join the peace process. Pakistan maintains its army has flushed out the Taliban from its tribal areas and denies any organised presence of the Afghan Talban inside Pakistan. This has failed to convince the US. In his telephonic talk with Imran Khan, Pompeo had last month raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and playing a vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.
No elected government or Parliament has devised the Pak-US and Pak-Afghan policy. But every government is expected to defend it. Imran Khan has been given at least two briefings on the issue, one at the GHQ and the other by the COAS on Monday. Today Secretary Pompeo and Gen Dunford meet the newly elected prime minister. To improve relations either Imran Khan will have to persuade them to accept Pakistan’s narrative or they will have to convince Khan of Washington’s point of view. Failure to resolve the differences will lead to enhancement of tensions. While Pakistan has to strengthen ties with China and cultivate Russia, equally important for it is to maintain friendly ties with the US.