By Seymur Mammadov
Bilateral relations between the US and Pakistan in recent years have been experiencing a period of tension due to many years of disagreement over the fight against regional terrorism and attempts to put an end to the bloody conflict in Afghanistan. However, it seems that soon we will witness the normalization of Pak-US relations.
The visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to US, which is scheduled after July 20, may not only open a new page in the relations between Washington and Islamabad, but will also definitely help to establish peace and stability in the region.
It is reported that in July Imran Khan will begin his five-day trip, which he would hold first face-to-face talks with US President Donald Trump. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters that the prime minister would be visiting Washington on the invitation of President Trump, who wanted to discuss important regional issues. This will be the first high-level interaction between the two countries under the Trump administration’s tenure. I wonder what factors could influence the need for this meeting? Should Pakistan go for closer contacts with the United States, as in earlier times?
It is worth noting that the meeting between Donald Trump and Imran Khan will take place at a time when negotiations between the US and the Afghan Taliban have entered decisive phase. Today Pakistan plays an important role in the Afghan campaign. First, the route through Pakistan is the shortest, cheapest and most acceptable way to deliver supplies to Afghanistan.
Secondly, Pakistan is making great efforts to ensure stability and peace in Afghanistan. If in the future the Americans completely leave Afghanistan, in my opinion, Pakistan can play an even greater role in ensuring security in the region. Washington may well rely on Islamabad in the Afghan issue after its withdrawal from Afghanistan, since Pakistan is interested in stability in this country. However, despite tensions with Islamabad, Washington and its NATO allies still continue to rely on Pakistani land and air links to supply land-locked coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Moreover, Pakistan made tremendous efforts and made enormous sacrifices in the war against international terrorism. And more than once he proved it. Suffice it to recall the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which were organized by the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Pakistan actively cooperated with the United States in the fight against terrorism, including the search and destruction of terrorist training camps in Pakistan. It was after these attacks that the United States moved to closer cooperation with Pakistan to eliminate the terrorist movement in South Asia. Pakistan lost more than 77,000 people in the fight against terrorism. Therefore, it is not surprising that in 2004 the United States named Pakistan one of its main allies outside of NATO. I believe that Washington and Islamabad should intensify their interaction at the level of law enforcement agencies in the fight against terrorism, as there is a need to continue this fight together. In the US know and in fact appreciate the contribution of Pakistan to the fight against this evil. On the other hand, the US is concerned about the influence of China in Pakistan and in the region as a whole. The fact is that after the deterioration of relations between Pakistan and the United States, China tried to fill the vacuum created by America’s withdrawal in Pakistan. It is not by chance that within a few hours after Washington’s decision to freeze the aid announced by former US Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley, Beijing officially came out in defense of Pakistan and announced plans to accelerate the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. And as a result, today we see that the project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a solid foundation for the growing friendship between Beijing and Islamabad. The United States would need to strengthen trade and economic contacts with Pakistan, to implement large infrastructure projects in the long-term in Pakistan.
In addition, the Pakistan-India conflict remains unresolved. Pakistan wants the United States to play a more active role in resolving this conflict. If someone thinks that the Kashmir conflict is a frozen conflict, then he is deeply mistaken. The crisis in Pakistan-India relations in February 2019 is a clear evidence of this. What was the reaction from the USA? The United States called on India and Pakistan to avoid further escalation of the conflict. In Islamabad, the American position caused at least disappointment. After the meeting of Imran Khan and Donald Trump, the United States will have a good opportunity to participate more actively in resolving the Kashmir conflict. Washington should make an effort to resolve this conflict.
P.S. Due to the constant criticism from the United States about the lack of active efforts by Pakistan in the fight against terrorists in the region, the traditionally unstable relations between the two countries in 2018 experienced a period of particular tension. However, it is time to get rid of the old grievances, and make a big step in bilateral relations. Restarting relations between Pakistan and the United States is necessary and should have an equal basis. In order to preserve their friendship, both sides should at least try to understand each other to determine the basis for further cooperation. If we want these relations to become strong and fruitful, they must be based on mutual respect and mutual concessions. Bilateral cooperation should not be a one-way traffic in which only one side makes its demands and expects the other side to quietly fulfill them. In any case, the visit of Imran Khan to the United States promises to be fruitful and informative. Normalization of bilateral relations is in the interests of both countries, since they are linked to each other by common interests in the region – the fight against terrorism and stability in Afghanistan.
The author is the Director of the International Expert Club «EurAsiaAz» which deals with strategic issues of Eurasian Region. He also holds the position as editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani news agency “Vzglyad”.