Speakers blamed Pakistan’s ill-designed foreign policy and lack of realism concerning the Afghan endgame for deteriorating Pak-US relations at a discussion here on Thursday.
Former ambassadors and ex-military men were speaking at the policy debate organised by Jinnah Institute and moderated by The News Editor Muhammad Malick. All three panellists were unanimous in their view that it was not clear at the moment who dictates the foreign policy. According to them, as the military repositions its stance, political forces seem reluctant to take the lead.
The speakers asserted that the relationship between Pakistan and the United States must be salvaged. Pakistan must safeguard its own interests when reconfiguring bilateral ties with the US since it stands to lose leverage in the Afghan endgame. Pak-US relations took a nosedive after Salala checkpost attack last year.
Former foreign secretary and ambassador to the United States Riaz Khokhar said, “An apology [from the US] at this point would be meaningless. Pakistan wasted too much time in responding to the Salala attack on a diplomatic level,” said Khokhar. He said Pakistan’s going into Chicago summit without opening NATO supply lines was indicative of the prevailing lack of understanding and trust deficit between Pakistan and the US.
“In the first place, the prime minister as the country’s chief executive, and not the president, should have represented Pakistan in Chicago,” said the former envoy.
Former foreign secretary Tanvir Ahmed Khan stated that Pak-US relations have always been transactional and Pakistanis feel the government is appeasing the US. “What we are seeing is a mutually contrived orchestration of the way forward,” he said.
He added that the Pakistan Army viewed anti-Pakistan sentiments in Washington as part of a propaganda barrage to reconfigure the country’s armed forces and their role in the region.
Khan said Pakistan took a bold but unsustainable decision and inevitably it would have to reopen NATO supply routes.
Lt. Gen. (retd) Talat Masood said serious measures need to be taken to address the declining levels of trust, or Pak-US relationship might rupture irreparably. Raza Rumi, Director Policy and Programmes Jinnah Institute, concluded by saying that improvement in Pak-US relations is crucial for regional stability.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.