PAK-US defence talks suggest that US did not want to completely abandon Pakistan. Even though, Pakistan was not mentioned single time in its recently released National Security Strategy, though it was mentioned 19 times in 2010 National Security Strategy during Obama’s administration. The Defence talks show that Pakistan is again in the limelight for the US. The US NSS 2022 did mention terrorism and other geo-strategic threats in Central and South Asian regions.
As in case of US war in Afghanistan, the document highlighted that the US will ensure that Afghanistan “never again serves as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on the United States or our allies and we will hold the Taliban accountable for its public commitments on counterterrorism”. Still Pakistan was not mentioned as an ally required to tackle those threats. On the other hand, in order to do this, the US needs Pakistan because it share borders with Afghanistan and has always played a mediating role between the US and the Taliban for peace. The recent wave of terrorism in Pakistan is accompanied by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan by leaving them unattended. The US has reiterated its support for Pakistan by calling it a stalwart partner in fight against terrorism. They assured their commitment to stand with Pakistan in their fight against terrorism.
The recent defence talks between the US and Pakistan also highlights the significance of Pakistan occupying an important geo-strategic position in South Asia region while dealing with this region Pakistan cannot be ignored. The agenda behind these defence talks is to expand coordination on strategic issues between the two defence establishments. Issues of bilateral defence and security cooperation were also to be discussed during the defence talks.
As the great power competition in 21st century is shifted to Asia-Pacific and the geo-strategic location of Pakistan is significant for the US. The US NSS 2023 also highlighted China as a long-term threat, Russia as an immediate threat and Iran as an irritant.
Pakistan’s geostrategic location is significant for the US as it shares borders with China, Iran and Central Asia. The US does not want to leave such an ideal location unattended. As Daniel Markey in his book, ‘No Exit from Pakistan’ highlighted that Pakistan is the only country that has strategic, economic, military and people to people contact and cooperation with China. No other country is as close to China as Pakistan. To keep an eye on China, the US considers Pakistan as an important state. Moreover, through Pakistan the US could also get access to Afghanistan and Iran as well to whom it considered as an irritant.
As far as Pakistan internal situation is concerned, it is facing economic turmoil, political instability and non-traditional security threats. Pakistan also needs the US support in IMF bailout package. Via learning through its historical experience, Pakistan cannot opt one bloc over the other. Moreover, it cannot afford to turn its neighbours into enemies.
So, Pakistan has to be wise in making choices to avoid its soil becomes a battle ground of major powers, or letting them use it for their vested interests. Pakistan has to devise a strategy to sustain and develop mutually beneficial relationships with superpowers.
—Author is a Research Officer at the Centre for International Strategic Studies, AJK.
This article was originally published in Pakistan Observer.