Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ice is Melting between Pakistan and the United States

By Saeed Qureshi

The uneven and thorny relations between the United States and Pakistan seem to be landing now on soft turf. For all indications that one can surmise from Pakistani prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the United States is that the period of intermittent bitterness, wanton unpredictability and sweet and sour nature of mutual relations seems to melting away. As a goodwill gesture and prelude to congenial atmosphere for fruitful parleys, the United States has announced release of 1.6 billion dollars to Pakistan.

The four days state visit of the prime minister of Pakistan that began on October 19 and would come to close on October 23 doesn’t seem to have any mentionable irritants that even a hostile press could play up.  Pakistan’s portfolio of issues that are being discussed by prime minister Nawaz Sharif in America  are enhancement of bilateral trade, end of drone attacks, Dr. Afia’s  release, America’s solicitation in smoothening of relations with India, possibility of America’s concurrence to allow for Pakistan the civilian nuclear technology that was given to India. In return America may demand her pound of flesh by asking Pakistan having an insight into Pakistan’s nuclear domain.

But most outstanding issue that would dominate both the traditional partners is the future of Afghanistan after America wind ups her military presence there. Understandably, the United States would ensure that its decade long war on terrorism that began from Afghanistan is not watered down and the moment the last American troops depart, the Taliban stage a comeback.

There can be two pronged aspects of what one can grasp by discerning the American priories. One is that there should be a strong and credible successor that can maintain or promote a good image of the United States after her departure. The peace between any Afghan regime (that would step in after Karzai’s government) and Pakistan would be of paramount importance to the interests of USA in central and south East Asia. America may want in the peace and development process of Afghanistan by taking India on board as well.

Ostensibly, when the bitterness between America and Iran slides down, Iran may also be allowed to join in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and also take part in safeguarding the interests of the United States. United States will not allow Afghanistan ether to fall into the hands of Taliban again or the Soviet influence to be revived in that war torn country.

It is forgone that America would want the militancy of Taliban to be broken either by force or by taking them along as partners in the new  civilian set up in Afghanistan. If American calls off drone attacks that this step  could  cast a soothing and pacifying influence on Taliban who would snatch this opportunity of being counted as a powerful partner in this new regional complexion and power sharing.

So American would dwell much on Pakistan’s support either by way of continued military operations or taming the shrewish Talban by military might.  Taliban are quite aware that while they could fight against American and allied forces they would forfeit such a carte- Blanche in waging war on Pakistan or Afghanistan .In the hindsight when they defeated the war lords, it was done with the backing of Pakistan. This time if they go alone against Pakistan, they might not succeed.

But the atmosphere visible in United States with regard to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit is quite favorable and friendly from top to bottom. Prime Minister Sharif’s meeting with secretary of state John Kerry, the top officials in the government and Senators and House Representatives is free from any malice, antagonism and shadow of “ifs and buts”. The Pakistanis community, whom he addressed, was full of hope and exuberance about the prime ministers’ visit.

Overall the visit carries a pleasant and positive tenor and tinge. The goodwill of the yesteryears is being revived and the acrimony, doubts ad apprehensions are being buried.  One can witness the profusion of goodwill with which Washington is awash about Mian Nawaz Sharif’s visit.

As what quid- pro-quo is to finally emerge would be apparent in a few days when the communiques are released by both the sides and any accords or MOU's are signed. But one thing is quite clear that this time United States is all set to bring her relations with Pakistan on an even keel and with a touch of cordiality and warmth which would last longer than the dictated ones that America has been pedaling all these years.

As to what would transpire about Pakistan’s growing nearness with China and its gas pipeline project with Iran would be manifest after the visit is over. But president Obama seems to be more than willing to accommodate Pakistan’s concerns and needs as far he can go. President Obama appears to be convinced and quite mindful of Pakistan multi dimensional importance in the Arab world, Middle East, Far East and its vital role that Pakistan can play as the trusted partner and close friend of the United States in that crucial  part of the world.

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