In an interview with a foreign news agency, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has said that after a period of strain, ties with the US are now back to normal and the two nations are working in close coordination once again. It is somewhat difficult to say if this is good news or bad. The relationship with Washington has been an unequal one since it first began in the 1950s, with issues of sovereignty raised again and again. In recent years, drone strikes in northern areas have been especially problematic, with the periodic invasion of air space raising many questions. Today, such incursions continue.
But realistically speaking, Pakistan cannot do without the US — at least, not on a short-term basis. There are too many economic, military and political equations at play. While we would all like to unwrap the US chain from around our necks and break free of Washington’s bondage, this is not an easy task. Questions also arise within the country of what would happen if we did break free — and if this would result in elements linked to the militants more actively trying to promote them in the region. This scenario is not one to be contemplated in a country that has suffered immensely due to the growth of extremism on its soil.
Last year, the Raymond Davis affair, the capture of Osama bin Laden and in November, the killing of 24 soldiers in a cross-border strike at Salala caused a serious fraying in ties. Now that these have been healed, Islamabad needs to look a little further ahead. We need, for now, at least, to keep some kind of linkage with the US. But for the future we must also think of how we can move towards greater freedom from the US leash, promote our own interests while dealing with the US and find within ourselves the commitment and capacity we badly need to chalk out our own direction for the future — serving the needs of our own people first and foremost, rather than anyone else or any other nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2012.