It was a bolt out of the blue, bright and early on New Year’s Day this year, when President Donald Trump tweeted harsh criticism of Pakistan, accusing the nation of ‘lies and deceit’. Most policymakers in Washington, DC were shocked by what they saw as an abrupt switch in policy towards Pakistan.
It was not long after the President’s early morning burst of tweets from his holiday resort in Florida, that a cogent and cohesive policy package against Pakistan was issued, restricting the flow of military support funds to Islamabad — an ally that stood by the US, come rain or shine.
Then, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US would not support International Monetary Fund financing for Pakistan if Pakistan used those funds to repay loans related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Relations between Washington and Islamabad have remained under stress ever since. And here we are once again reviving our ties with Washington, DC. Perhaps as always, a sense of déjà vu hangs over the talks Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has held with Secretary Mike Pompeo and hawks like John Bolton. Washington and Islamabad have been down this road frequently. For too long, the US has bullied Pakistan into doing things that do not appear to suit the country’s regional or strategic interests and the relationship has always been bumpy, but the two sides have always patched things up — less out of affection than mutual necessity. Once again, the US government needs to realise that in order to secure any form of peaceful solution in Afghanistan, it desperately needs Pakistan’s assistance. While it is too early to link the recent thaw, on the heels of Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit, to both sides agreeing to a script that prevents future diplomatic mishaps, it is time for the Trump administration to acknowledge that it cannot curb terrorism in the region without engaging Pakistan as an equal and not a subordinate at the receiving end of side-eyes.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2018.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ