By: Asem Mustafa Awan
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s meeting with his American counterpart Antony Blinken in Washington is being presented as a new beginning of bilateral relations after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. The two foreign ministers discussed relief of the flood victims, the situation in the region and the possibility of improving bilateral relations. In an interview after the meeting, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that until India withdraws from its extremist stance, there can be no hope for peace in the region.
Pakistan-US relations have gone through many variations in seven decades. These relations have been seen in the context of Cold War and post-Cold War. The overall impression was that the relationship arose out of transactional necessity. It was this logic that explained the relationship between the two on four occasions despite regular distance due to geographical and political differences. The 1960s was the era of the Cold War that brought the two countries together, with the US using Pakistan as an anti-communist outpost while Pakistan received benefits in terms of military and economic aid to bolster its military potential.
There eastern frontiers had enemy in the form of India. In the 70s, Pakistan helped the US to reach out to China, while in the post-1971 crisis, the US helped Pakistan.
The 1980s featured an anti-US-Pakistan Soviet alliance, generously bankrolled by the US, which helped the country build its military and strategic capabilities despite the volatile and militant FATA region. As the 21st century dawned, Afghanistan became a front once again, this time the war on terror entangled the two allies separately in the anti-terrorist alliance. This alliance was finally terminated by Donald Trump.
The Biden administration inherited a fractured coalition and implemented its long-held strategy of abandoning nation-building plans and bringing US troops home from Afghanistan.
The ability to deal with global and regional crises requires a proactive foreign policy and an agile military strategy, which the United States has masterfully used in the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. However, this procedure was not in place even during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The withdrawal was justified on the grounds that the center of American strategic interests had shifted from South Asia to East Asia and the Pacific region.
Pakistan and US have a great scope in different areas East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC), which connects India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian states to complement CPEC, could give the US considerable leverage to maintain its presence in the region to pursue its strategic interests.
This corridor could be financed through a public-private partnership that would multiply US investment and create a lasting contribution to the regional economy. The US-Pakistan Educational Corridor (APEC) is another concept that was previously proposed as the US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor. This would give the US strategic leverage for its investment. Pakistan wants peace in South Asia on the principle of coexistence. The path to peace is blocked by India’s insistence that it will set regional policies. India is included in America’s regional balance of power strategy. America can correct the balance of power by advising India to settle all disputes with Pakistan, including the Kashmir and with this anti-American sentiments in the region can be quelled.
The writer is a Special Correspondent at The Dayspring