SDPI Seminar on “Pakistan-US Relations: Searching for a Common Ground”

Experts and practitioners at a discussion in Islamabad on Wednesday stressed the need for a thorough revamping of Pakistan’s foreign policy in general and Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and the United States in particular.

The seminar titled ‘Pakistan-US Relations: Searching for a Common Ground’, was organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here at its office in Islamabad.

Speaking at the occasion, former ambassador to the United States Ashraf Jahangir Qazi said that Pakistan seems to have regained a central position in the peace process in Afghanistan. “The relationship between Pakistan and the United States should be analyzed in the light of a new Great Game in Eurasia region”, he said. He also argued that this relationship has to be seen in the context of what is going on between China and the United States on the one hand and between Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and the United States on the other hand. “While Pakistan should further strengthen its strategic ties with China, we should conduct our ties with Washington to ensure that the United States does not want to or has to harm our interests”, he said.

Haroon Sharif, Former Chairman of the Board of Investments, who was the guest of honor at the event, said the outcome of the recent Prime Minister Imran Khan visit to the United States should have been in the form of some tangible economic transaction between the two countries. “There is no harm in having a transactional relationship with the United States as long as that transaction helps Pakistan financially and economically”, he said added that relations between almost all countries are transactional. Sharif, however, questioned Pakistan’s capacity to negotiate and implement any serious international transaction. 

Former ambassador, Ayaz Wazir while highlighting the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan said the US always uses Pakistan for their interest and we happily served the interest of America more than ours.

 “In the wake of recent visit of the Prime Minister to the US, I feared that we are again offering our services for free in Afghanistan which will be a mistake”, he said adding Pakistan need to be extremely careful in making any promise on Afghanistan to the US. For peaceful conflict resolution in Afghanistan and the region, Iran should also be included in the negotiations with China, Russia, Pakistan and the US, he suggested.

Senior Defence Analyst, Major General (R) Ijaz Hussain Awan in the context of the US President Trump offer of mediation on Kashmir resolution said that all the bilateral engagements could not work for last 70 years and failed to prevent wars including Kargil and other military escalations to happen between India and Pakistan. He said the only way forward is third party intervention in the light of United Nation (UN) resolution on Kashmir, as bilateral mechanism has failed and we could not waste another 50 more years.  Major Gen Ijaz while highlighted the case of Indus Water Treaty mediation by the third party i.e. World Bank and the recent kulbhushan yadav case by the International Court of Justice said the both parties were happy on the solution offered by the third party and Kashmir issue can also be resolved through third party mediation. 

Senior Journalist ad Independent Analyst Zahid Hussain said both countries have convergence of interest on some issues and huge divergence on others. “Overall, the relationship between two countries largely revolve around Afghanistan, where both countries and convergence of their interests”, he said.  In last two year the relations hit the lowest level, where cooperation was suspended by the Trump administration both on military and civilian front, he added. After the Imran Khan visit to the US the relationship now restore to transactional track, he observed. The challenge for the Pakistan is to meet the expectations of the US in Afghanistan, he added.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI said that since the very beginning our relations with the United States (US) are of bumpy in nature, where we have different phases  of ups and down in the relation. He said Pakistan needs to work on strengthening relationship with the US beyond Afghanistan. When we looked at the past various agreements and MoUs, especially with the Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Middle East countries, our capacity to follow up with those agreements remained poor, he observed. Pakistan needs to regressively follow up with the agreements, he added. Pakistan should also strengthen it ties in future with the US on economic front, he remarked.

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