Despite a cyberspace invasion, the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations has hosted a successful webinar this past Tuesday on “Reset of US-Pakistan Relations”. The principal speaker was Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while analyst Michael Kugelman from the Woodrow Wilson International Center, Ambassador Zamir Akram, Former US Ambassador Robin L. Raphel, and Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhary, were all panelists, while Kalim Farooqui moderated the session.
Foreign Minister’s speech
The foreign minister emphasized the need to improve US-Pak relations and reassured the US that while Pakistan is working with the US to ensure peace in the region, there is much need to add greater dimensions to this relationship. He said that Indian leaders threaten Pakistan, an unwise choice given the nuclearised environment. However, geo-economics requires Pakistan to build a long-term, broad-based relationship that is based on mutual respect. He further added that Pakistan’s geostrategic position gives Pakistan the right traits to become a hub for trade in the region. As the US and Pakistan are working together to build peace in Afghanistan, there are many opportunities for co-investment by Pakistan, China, the US, and Afghanistan, and that there is great economic potential, as the US emerges as a major energy supplier.
He further emphasized that Pakistan is striving to build a subsidized healthcare system and is leading the region in efforts to combat climate change. Furthermore, Pakistan is working hard to eradicate corruption and would join hands with the Biden administration in its crackdown on money laundering and illicit safe-havens.
He said “Our shared interests, common aspirations for economic development and enhanced connectivity in the region, and the rare moment of hope for peace in Afghanistan, provide a strong foundation for both sides to take the bilateral relationship forward.”
Western Panelists’ Remarks
Kugelman said that US-Pak relations had been reset when Pakistan agreed to help the Trump administration in launching a peace negotiation with the Taliban. It is up to Pakistan to decide that whether they would like to continue and build momentum or lose progress, with the incoming Biden administration. He said, “I do feel that a disconnect is emerging in the relations.” Former Ambassador Robin L. Raphel agreed with Kugelman that the US-Pak relationship had been reset, but he added that with regards to India, the US has been unable to take Pakistan’s concerns into account. However, a lack of understanding of each other’s perspectives is what may have resulted in the disconnect.
Eastern Panelists’ Remarks
While Kugelman said the relationship could go either way, Ambassador Zamir Akram said that foreign policy is often dictated by security interests and the change in administration doesn’t necessarily warrant a change in Foreign Policy. Ambassador Chaudhary, further added that the US has always viewed Pakistan from its security lens, which has always undermined Pakistan’s significance to the US.