KARACHI: The vicious and vulgar cyber invasion of Indian individuals tried, but failed, to sabotage the webinar on ‘Resetting US-Pakistan Relations’ hosted by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR) on Tuesday evening as the event progressed successfully.
The keynote speaker was Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. He said Indian leaders had publicly spoken of their desire to use military force against Pakistan. There is nothing more irresponsible in a core environment.
He said while Pakistan would continue to work with the US for peace in the region, our relationship had to be bigger. The emergence of a new government in Washington provides us with the opportunity to have long-term, broad-based and multidimensional relationships. Such partnerships will require institutionalized and structural engagement based on mutual respect. [There should be] a strong US-Pak relationship in its own right and of its own weight. It’s interesting because it’s geo-economic.
Pakistan is a country of 220 million people, two thirds of whom are under 30. We sit at the crossroads of China, South and Central Asia. Pakistan envisions itself as a future trading hub in the region.
Experts suggest a broad-based approach to Pakistan-US relations given Washington’s new administration
Mr Qureshi said Pakistan and the US should work together to strengthen Afghanistan and seek opportunities for joint investment by Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China. The potential for Pak-US relations in the economic field is enormous. The US is emerging as a major energy supplier.
Pakistan’s emphasis on providing high-quality, subsidized health care to all of its citizens predates the Covid-19 crisis but has acquired greater urgency. Likewise, Pakistan has become a regional leader in fighting climate change. Our massive tree plantation propulsion has won international recognition. We look forward to getting help from the Biden administration in mitigating the health crisis and economic downturn and fighting climate change.
The foreign minister said fighting corruption was at the top of our agenda. We welcome President Biden’s call to crack down on money laundering and illegal shelters that are causing massive damage in developing countries. Pakistanis have always had a personal affinity for the US. Common values are ultimately the foundation of every strong relationship.
“Our common interests, shared aspirations for economic development and increased connectivity in the region, and rare moments of hope for peace in Afghanistan, provide a solid foundation for both parties to advance bilateral relations,” he said.
After the speech, the foreign minister in response to a question said: “Our focus has shifted towards geo-economy and that demands peace in the region. That’s why we have a new approach to Afghanistan, facilitating peace there. We want healthy relations with India too, but unfortunately the current regime [in India] been by their actions ruining it. “
‘The break appeared in US-Pak relations’
Analyst Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center said the US-Pak relationship had undergone a reset several years ago when the Trump administration decided it wanted to work with Pakistan to help launch bilateral negotiations with the Taliban.
Once the two started working together on the Afghan reconciliation process, relations stabilized. That remains the case today. The big question is what is the connection [with the incoming Biden administration] will lose or advance the momentum enjoyed over the past two years. The simple answer is that it can work.
“I really feel that a break is emerging in relationships. The government in Pakistan is relatively calm. What is said about Pakistan’s hopes for that relationship may not attract much sympathy with the next administration, “he said.
Ambassador Zamir Akram said any country’s foreign policy is driven by its national security interests. A change of government in Washington does not necessarily mean that the parameters of US foreign policy will change.
Former US ambassador Robin L. Raphel said certain rearrangements had been made but that more needed to be done. The key to a constructive reset is to be honest with ourselves, with each other, and telling each other the truth. There are two important truths. One, Pakistan is an important country. Second, the US is still a major global power. Nonetheless, from a Pakistani perspective, the US appears to be an inconstant friend, unable to take into account Pakistan’s national security issues, particularly with regard to India.
The US, for its part, is frustrated when it sees Pakistan’s insufficient support for its efforts in Afghanistan. And the US has been puzzled by what it sees as Pakistan’s action against its own long-term interests, particularly in support of various militant groups. Neither side worked hard enough to understand each other, he said.
Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in his speech put forward three starting points.
First, the Pak-US relationship has always been on a roll. Second, strong person-to-person contact. Third, the US has seen Pakistan through five lenses: security, China, Afghanistan, India and a nuclear program that undermines the importance of Pakistan.
He argued with the Biden administration where a broad-based approach to the relationship was needed.
The event was moderated by Kalim Farooqui.
Published in Dawn, 20 January 2021
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