Relations between Pakistan and the US are on yet another downward swing. In accordance with an oft-repeated pattern of cooperation followed by coldness, the US is once again reevaluating the extent of its relationship with Pakistan. Most recently, US lawmakers moved to stop the government from funding a sale of eight F-16 jets to Pakistan. Alarm bells are now going off, as this could be an indicator of a further cooling of relations similar to that after 1989. The official Pakistani explanation put forward regarding this change claims that it is due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the presence of strong Indian lobbying forces in Washington. It is felt that the US is both anxious to undermine China’s influence in the region and to strengthen its ties with India.
While both these reasons might be part of the problem, they do not present the whole picture. Pakistan has been slow to move when it comes to the matter that has always raised serious concerns with the US administration: terrorism. Individuals and outfits considered dangerous enough to pose a direct threat to US interests in the region have not always been pursued with alacrity. Our foreign policy, too, is struggling due to the absence of a full-time foreign minister who can represent the country’s best interests abroad. Indian lobbyists may have been successful in promoting a certain narrative on Pakistan in the US; it is after all what they are paid to do. But what about our own lobbyists in Washington and their failure to protect our relationship with the US against external influences? This is not to say that the demands placed on Pakistan by the US are always wholly justified. As a sovereign nation, Pakistan must first and foremost protect its own best interests, which include having a stable relationship with China. However, the importance of US goodwill to Pakistan cannot be understated and our policy in certain matters is well worth a revisit.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2016.