A new re-engagement between America and Pakistan

After two decades, Pakistan finds itself in unfamiliar territory being no longer central to America’s foreign-policy. America’s military involvement from Afghanistan is over. Pakistan needs fresh grounds to re-engage with America.

Pakistan’s powers have decided upon a “geo-economics” policy to pursue that focuses on regional trade and connectivity. Pakistan understands that a geostrategic strategy had worked for her when America had boots on ground in Afghanistan but now it needs to be replaced by something else. America, under Biden too needs to rethink how it wants to reengage with Pakistan.

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Pakistan was an important ally since 2001, however, security is no longer the base of American policy. The factors that drive the American policy today are handling the rise of China, handling a post COVID-19 economy, handling of the climate change. All these and other issues override Pakistan.

America cannot overlook the fact that Pakistan borders India, Iran and China. It opens the doorway to central Asia and is located at the ‘mouth’ of Persian Gulf. An unstable Pakistan can have spillover effect on the entire region.

Pakistan’s desire to base it’s engagement with America on “geo-economics” is unquestionably linked with its economic problems it faces. Excessive debts, falling production, low consumer buying power, IMF strict requirements to release tranches, lessening textile products and dwindling exports, increasing costs of raw materials, high electricity rates, are only some of the problems facing Pakistan. The devastating floods have added to Pakistan’s problems.

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Long term borrowings no longer seem viable with repayments becoming difficult. Implementing the economic based strategy requires time aimed at to put her house in order.

Another reality confronting Pakistan is her erstwhile friend Saudi Arabia, is moving away from a foreign policy built on religion. This is the reason it is stepping away from religious based only associations. In 2020, Saudi Arabia cancelled a three-billion-dollar loan to Pakistan. Reportedly this was an outcome of Pakistan complaining that Saudi Arabia did not support Pakistan against India over Kashmir.

America has been the largest export market for Pakistan. Official figures place them at an estimated $6.08 billion, a 21% of Pakistan’s total exports. The time is right for America to re-engage with Pakistan. It can only gain from utilizing Pakistan’s economy for goods at advatageous prices.

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What Pakistan needs to understand is that her reliance on one or the other sugar daddy cannot continue indefinitely now. A strong policy, needs to be developed. We need to look inwards for this. We need to remember in international relations there are no friends, only allies. And allies change with time and circumstances. International relations must be based on national interests.

Pakistan must offer ‘real economic interest’ to US. And US needs to look at Pakistan with an open mind minus the security entrapment.

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The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

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