Nuaman Ishfaq Mughal,
Islamabad: There are more divergences than points of convergence between Pakistan and the United States (US) relations. Pakistan should not seek a strategic relationship with the US. Instead, it should aspire for a working relationship, which is cordial and dynamic, and does not curtail its sovereignty and national interest. These were the views of former Ambassador Riaz Khokhar at the Guest Lecture, ‘Improving Pakistan-US Relations: Ways and Means’ organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute in Islamabad.
Ambassador Khokhar opined that Pakistan and the US had been allies and had shed blood together. Therefore, neither side could easily brush this relationship aside in spite of President Trump’s choice of hard words at times and vacillating approach towards Pakistan. “Pakistan needs to have a working relationship. 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,” he said.
He further shared that Pakistan’s relationship with the US could not be analysed in isolation since the international order was in flux, with China rising phenomenally, Russia re-asserting itself, and the Middle East in extreme turmoil. “Every US security document over the past few years identifies China as a major threat for the US, followed by Russia, North Korea and Iran. Pakistan has historic relations with China that go as far back as the 1950s. This is a solid, iron-clad strategic relationship which neither side should allow anyone to undermine,” he stressed.
On the issue of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US, Ambassador Khokhar strongly held the view that while both leaders clicked and had chemistry, the US main interest remained Afghanistan since there was realisation in Washington that there was no military solution to the Afghan tangle.
Ambassador Khokhar further pointed out that India was also an important actor influencing Pak-US dynamics. The US expected India to be a partner in the containment of China. In this regard, 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 said. Discussing the rising tensions in Indian Occupied Kashmir, the Ambassador remarked that mild US statements on Indian atrocities were indicative of where their sympathies lie.
Earlier, welcoming the eminent speaker, diplomats, senior academics, students and media channels, President of IPRI Ambassador (Retd.) Khan Hasham bin Saddique provided a brief historical overview of Pak-US relations and said that despite multiple centres of power emerging around the globe, the US remained the sole super power given its economic, technological and military power. “Unfortunately, our relationship with the US has historically suffered due to lack of trust on both sides. The one word which best describes this relationship is transactional,” he said.