Once American Statesman Henry Kissinger said, “Donald Trump
is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven't seen. So it is a shocking
experience to them that he came in to office. “
Meeting first time after twitter spat in last November .All eyes are fixed
at the outcomes of the meeting. Trump-the incumbent king of the world when
meets other smaller counterpart statesmen, the scenario is drawn towards
something unprecedented which is not going to happen but only when the thing
pops out of mind is exploitation game at the end of the day as the result.
Same would be the condition if the things do not get off the track.
President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan have similarities too:
both are populist and sincere to their cause but unorthodox; and their
chemistry could iron out many crests and troughs in the Pakistan-US
relationship. Imran Khan shouldrecognise that spoilers and lobbies, who view
the Pakistan-US relation with suspicion, would try their utmost to spoil the
atmosphere of goodwill through trivia and controversies. No matter which
side of the US-Pakistan relationship you are on, you cannot but agree that
playing by the rules hasn’t worked. And it won’t — because divergences in
interests on key issues are real and their respective positions on them are
too dug in.
The global norm of statecraft is to play safe: be boring, go slow, do not
spring surprises, and stick to talking points.But for the time being, let
the two leaders be themselves.
If Going by ‘the script’, Trump echoes Washington’s negative energy: would
blame Pakistan for the mess in Afghanistan, talk of sanctuaries, terrorism,
the danger of nuclear weapons, and promise to keep the pressure up till
Pakistan delivers. Khan will fire away by accusing the US of using Pakistan
as a scapegoat, of destabilising South Asia and being in cahoots with India,
and ask for support on FATF, IMF, Kashmir, etc.
But, arrest of JuD Head Hafiz Saeed before U.S. visit and opening the
airspace have some specific indications.With India in the U.S. embrace, and
Pakistan the new poster child of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, any
conflict between New Delhi and Islamabad will also have higher stakes. After
the February face-off at the border between the two countries, when the
Indian Air Force crossed into Pakistan for the first time since 1971, a
defense buildup in one country will automatically trigger anxiety in the
other. On the line of control dividing disputed Kashmir, the risks of
military escalation are sky high. Unless New Delhi accepts Islamabad’s offer
of talks, further regional instability is likely.
Against this backdrop, with U.S.-Iran tensions on the boil, a modicum of
diplomatic courtesies for Islamabad may stay on the menu in Washington, but
these will have a limited shelf life if the situation in Afghanistan
worsens. When the storm gathers, American anger—which is rarely based on
what actually went wrong in the region—could spark fresh tensions. In the
age of Twitter tripwires, facts won’t matter much. It is heartening to note
that the US State Department and its Bureau of South and Central Asian
Affairs have updated their info portal on the relations with Pakistan, which
as of June 21, 2019 stated, “The United States has been one of the largest
sources of foreign direct investment in Pakistan and is Pakistan’s largest
export market. Trade relations between the United States and Pakistan
continue to grow and the US government supports this relationship by funding
reverse trade delegations, business conferences, technical assistance, and
business outreach. Pakistan remains an attractive market for US companies
due to favourable demographics, English language skills, low labour costs,
and natural resources.”
The U.S. agenda clearly focuses on countering terrorism. Equally important
will be Pakistan’s key role in pushing the Afghan Taliban to reduce
battlefield violence and engage in direct talks with the Kabul government,
both of which are tough asks at this point. Beyond that, the politics of the
visit will likely be boilerplate: Pakistan should do more to stabilize
Afghanistan while also doing more to comply with global money laundering
requirements and International Monetary Fund (IMF) benchmarks. If Trump is
in a good mood, he may even invite Khan to dinner at the White House.
In American eyes, stabilizing Afghanistan is Pakistan’s only real trump
card. Islamabad would prefer to have a broader relationship with Washington
beyond being seen as a window into a changing Afghanistan. Yet, in
international politics, hopes matter as little as intentions.
The visit is meant to push the Afghan peace process on a positive
trajectory. This visit is taking place to find common grounds based on the
changing dynamics of the region. Trump’s policy on Afghanistan has to be
implemented before 2020 and an amicable solution found which preserves
American interests and guarantees that Afghanistan does not become a base of
terrorism directed against America and the West.
The peace talks that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been conducting with
the Afghan Taliban and other Afghans have gone a long way toward breaking
down barriers. Still, too many members of the Afghan Taliban see violence as
a means of boosting their negotiating power. The irony is not lost on
anyone. Once upon a time, the United States wanted to fight and talk. Now
the Taliban seem to be doing so.
For its part, Pakistan has been instrumental in making the talks happen and
has belatedly received some muted recognition of its unprecedented efforts
to facilitate these delicate negotiations. The U.S. government’s listing of
the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army as a terrorist group is one of
the tokens of that recognition. But, now a fresh start is needed for both
the countries and the region for peace, stability and prosperity.