Unnecessarily assertive statements about the USA by former Prime Minister Imran Khan mired relations between Islamabad and Washington. The relations touched a new low after Mr Khan accused the USA of conspiring to dislodge his government with the help of local collaborators. Washington bluntly denied the charge saying the USA would not let “lies get in the way” of its bilateral ties with Pakistan. Within days of the installation of the new PML(N)-led government, messages welcoming Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif started pouring in from the USA.
Despite ups and downs in mutual relations, 75-year-old Pakistan-US ties have endured the test of time as these were based on common interest and were not meant to be at the expense of either side’s ties with other countries. Presently the USA is worried about the Taliban regime’s policies and would not like Afghanistan to turn into a hotbed of terrorist networks, which are concerns shared by Pakistan also. Being Afghanistan’s close neighbour Pakistan can be more helpful than any other country. The USA is important for Pakistan as it is the biggest destination for Pakistan’s exports. Besides Islamabad eyes investments from the USA and needs Washington’s help in straightening out its problems with the IMF and FATF.
There are however differences also between the two countries. The USA has developed close ties with India to leverage it against China which is Pakistan’s close ally and which has invested billions of dollars in CPEC. .
Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, was invited to the USA to attend a ministerial meeting on ‘Global Food Security Call to Action’ at the United Nations. He will now also have a session of bilateral talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Meanwhile a State Department spokesperson has assured of strong US support to rebuild the Pakistani economy and help increase investment and trade opportunities. According to the spokesman the USA also welcomes the ongoing IMF deliberations with Pakistan.
While the new government needs to make use of the opportunity of improved relations with the USA, this must not happen at the expense of ties with China. During the height of the Cold War Pakistan managed to have friendly relations with both the USA and China. While this is a difficult exercise, this is the only sound policy.