U.S. – Pakistan Strategic dialogue

By: Zakir Jalaly

Last Monday The United States of America and Pakistan restarted the halted “Strategic Dialogue”. This process was resumed after the Ministerial meeting of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Pakistan Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

John Kerry at the first day of the discussions hoped that Pakistan will have the capability to rebound from its economic stagnation and become one of “tiger economies in Asia”. This expression is used for the Asian countries with remarkable economic development like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. Three years ago the bilateral relations was deteriorated after some incidents in 2011. In January 2011 killing of three Pakistani nationals in Lahore by an American spy (Raymond Davis) and in the same year US attacked Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad and also in the October of the same year a US airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers which caused a plunge in bilateral relation and halted the process.  

Sartaj Aziz is an experienced diplomat and in this round of dialogues he has more requests comparing with previous ones. And he well realizes the importance of his country for U.S. Aziz Said: “Pakistan hopes Washington will start looking at Pakistan as a more significant partner, and not just through the lenses of terrorism and Afghanistan”. He barely talked about concerns of his country saying: I am sure you agree with me that when in 1991 America left the region and came back in 2001, the national security of Pakistan was not taken important. Sartaj Aziz Also complained that in comparison with India the concerns of Pakistan has been neglected and asked America to improve the trust building in different levels. He added “the Afghan war must end in a responsible manner and that past mistakes should not repeat,”

Now when the situation is similar to what it was in 1991, Pakistan has gained its importance in Foreign Policy of the U.S. America will withdraw most of its military troops from Afghanistan till end of this year and for transporting the equipments, Pakistan is the closest and cheapest way for transit. For Pakistan it is also important, as Sartaj Aziz said that we remain committed to facilitate a smooth and responsible US withdraw from Afghanistan and to gain the trust of U.S.

In Pakistan the general public opinion and the government of Tahreek Insaf party of Imran khan in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa who are recently perusing policies against America, are the reasons why U.S has resumed the strategic dialogue with Pakistan. In this round of discussions America is trying to give privileges to Pakistan and transit its equipment out of this region through this country. Sartaj aziz also understands the important role of his country and therefore he is more encouraged to talk about his country’s demands in this field.

In comparison with Imran khan party, the Party of Nawaz Sharif has softer perspective about America and seriously supports the fight against Taliban which might damage its image among the people of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif is trying to gain more attention of America with restoration of strategic dialogue between two countries in the areas of Energy, Security, Defense, Rule of law and economy and change the general public opinion in favor of his party.  

Currently the discussions over Bilateral Security Agreement pact between Afghanistan and U.S is another important issue. The supporters of this pact are arguing that giving military bases to America is important because of the security threats from Pakistan which means that “zero-sum game” has been emerged in this relation. This situation in international relations means that there are clashes of interests in bilateral relations. According to this perspective each interaction between America and Pakistan is against Afghanistan and each interaction between Afghanistan an America is against Pakistan. So the strategic dialogue between U.S and Pakistan will threat the need of strategic and security agreement with Afghanistan.

The bilateral security agreement which is under debate between Afghanistan and U.S is just a promise and does not have any legal guarantee, and when Pakistan is the reliable partner of America in the region then what is the need of such agreement with Afghanistan?!

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