ISLAMABAD: Former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar believes that despite being historical allies, a strategic relationship between the US and Pakistan would be detrimental to the latter’s national interest. He said that Pakistan should instead seek a relationship with Washington based on mutual areas of interest.
Speaking at a lecture at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Ambassador Khokar said, “The US is a superpower and the only way forward is to have sustained diplomatic dialogue and to collaborate in areas where there is convergence such as trade, energy, transport, and especially, education.”
In regard to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s much-publicized visit to the US, Ambassador Khokhar stated that while Khan managed to develop a good rapport with US President Trump, relations between the two countries depended largely on the situation in Afghanistan about which there is a growing realization in Washington that no military solution is possible.
“It has to be an Afghan solution, and how far Pakistan could go towards helping the US in resolving it. While the Taliban are now on the negotiating table, Pakistan does not have overwhelming influence over them nor over the ethnic mosaic of Afghan tribes. It would not be in Pakistan’s interest to give any guarantees or get involved in the actual terms and conditions of a settlement agreement. Pakistan is not seeking an Islamabad-made solution to the Afghan problem,” he said.
He stated that with Beijing’s growing influence in Pakistan and Washington’s strong relations with New Delhi the regional dynamic had changed significantly.
“Every US security document over the past few years identifies China as a major threat for the US. Pakistan’s relations with China go as far back as the 1950s. This is a solid, iron-clad strategic relationship which neither side should allow anyone to undermine,” he said, adding, “The US expects India to be a partner in the containment of China. Pakistan’s overall endorsement of the Belt and Road Initiative may also be problematic for Washington. Western countries have a soft corner for Delhi. That is why India is painted as a responsible nuclear power,” he opined.
Speaking about the situation in Kashmir, the Ambassador said that the solution to the crisis largely depended on the willingness of the Indian leadership to engage with Pakistan in meaningful dialogue.
“ We should engage with India but not beg for dialogue. A dialogue has to be in the interest of both countries,” he concluded.