Pakistan needs to devise a strategy built around a long-term US presence in Afghanistan, as the Americans are not leaving Afghanistan anytime soon. This was stated by foreign policy analyst Tanvir Ahmad Khan at a roundtable conference here on Wednesday. The event was organised by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS).
Khan argued that the perception of Pakistan through the foreign eye is of a weak client state that should obey diktats from the US. This is why, in Khan’s opinion, the US wants Pakistan to secure its interests in Afghanistan and not obstruct India’s ambitions of becoming a regional power to counter Chinese influence in the region.
He said that Pak-US relations were improving but that the bad patch in the relations has helped rationalise the bilateral discourse and is likely to eliminate idealistic expectations in the future.
Khan felt there are still irritants in the relationship, like drone attacks, which he believed would not come to an end any time soon, and nuclear weapons as well as Pakistan’s overtures towards other countries like China, Iran, and Russia.
Khan stressed the need for Pak-US relations to shift from their strategic focus to a more people-centric and economic approach.
He also urged the US to play its role in bringing India and Pakistan closer.
Defence analyst Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood added that the US is bringing India and Pakistan closer as a byproduct of its policy to keep India focused on China, and Pakistan on militancy and extremism. He was of the view that the major difference between Pakistan and the US is on how to address the militants.
According to Gen Masood, Pakistan considers extremist elements a constant presence in Pakistani society, which is why it wants a solution that entails coexistence. On the other hand the US wants Pakistan to crack them down.
Ambassador (retd) BA Malik said that Pakistan’s real enemy is militancy and extremism and not the US. He also disagreed with the perception that the US had lost the war in Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2012.