Pakistani premier’s upcoming visit to the United States is one of hope and, possibly, new beginnings.
The new government in Pakistan and the state-military-led initiatives of internal security and Afghan peace is expected to have paved way for a new narrative for rapproachment between Pakistan and the world power. But is it only the contributions on Afghan peace has earned Pakistan U.S. attention and respect from Russia and China? The upcoming U.S. elections demand more from Donald Trump on the Afghan war front. If he doesn’t step up to the proverbial foreign policy plate, his could be the first re-election where sitting president loses in decades.
It is to be the first visit by Imran Khan to the U.S. since coming to power. A lot is riding on IK’s charm and also his ability for outright straight forwardness, a trait he shares with the premier in Washington. At home, Pakistanis are weary of the US-led Trump government’s critical approach towards the state notably on its war against terror, cross-border policies with Afghanistan (and India). Pakistan bore the brunt of not only acerbic criticism but the blatant asphyxiation through being downgraded role in Afghanistan peace from a major ally, subjection to FATFF.
Washington understands that Pakistan can deliver in Afghanistan. Pakistan played its part in the Afghan negotiations, which over the past year were held in Doha, Russia Pakistan and China, as it successfully brought Taliban leadership to the table.
Islamabad has to gain from the U.S. confidence in its new leadership. Financial, military support will benefit the nation. What Pakistan has to gain the most is in a U.S. commitment towards Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir. Washington has to show some positive signs that India would stop committing crimes against humanity in the occupied Kashmir region and will sit on a table with Pakistan.
The Pak-U.S. meet and prospects are worrying Pakistan’s neighbour. Modi in his new term wants Pakistan to remain as an international outcast. India’s foreign policy pundits do not waste any time to remind the world of Pakistan’s notoriety as a sympathetic country to extreme groups. She would like the Baloch question to remain open in Pakistan and malign it for harbouring terrorist leaders and their seminaries. Most of all we are reminded how no one can take the place of the blue-eyed Delhi in the Washington’s eyes.
However, all we can do in Pakistan is wait. Pakistan has had some difficult years. We have borne Washington’s ire with resilience and made alliances in the Sino-Russian quarters and the middle east. In an unpopular bid, Pakistan also complied with IMF demands to make national economy independent…taking the long and arduous road. Pakistan has to but ensure U.S. that its interests will not intersect with that of Pakistan’s other allies.
Imran Khan knows that he is expected to answer some tough questions. At home his policy to uproot corruption has widened its net to religious elites…who now have to answer to the means behind their practices. So he seems confident that he has the goods and a strong will to deliver. Most significantly, the civil-military leadership are working closely on all fronts.
One question the American senators and the expats will ask would be about the media freedom will be tough. In his recent visit to United Kingdom, the foreign secretary, Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s press conference was boycotted by the Pakistani journalists protesting the closed transmission of 3 television news channels for airing opposition party’s leaks. He also faced some tough questions by foreign journalists.
We hope that where Qureshi’s tolerance ends IK’s charm doesn’t and that he also manages to win over expats and the intellectual elites of the U.S.