U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS: UNRAVELING COMPLEXITIES, FORGING A SHARED FUTURE

NESA Center Alumni Publication

The strategic significance of Pakistan, underscored by its geographic location and possession of nuclear capabilities, has rendered it a notable player on the global stage, exerting influence not only in the Global North but also extending its impact to the Global South. The United States, serving as the torchbearer of the liberal world order and maintaining its status as the sole superpower for nearly two decades, has navigated a relationship with Pakistan marked by ebbs and flows over time. While Pakistan may not hold the status of an equal partner to the United States, Pakistan is still a key partner of Washington in the region defined by one of the top American officials while acknowledging Pakistan’s geostrategic significance in the region. The U.S. administration consistently upholds a relationship centered on security concerns. This multifaceted relationship encompasses a diverse array of engagements, from collaborative economic initiatives to people-to-people contacts, reflecting the complexity of their interactions. The dynamic between the U.S. and Pakistan is often characterized as a continuous cycle of conflict but with an inherent mechanism for conflict resolution. This built-in conflict resolution structure not only shapes the nature of their interactions but also provides the U.S. with a strategic advantage, offering a margin for “error of judgment” in instances where Washington issues strong statements or takes decisive actions.   The aftermath of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 has left both Washington and Islamabad seeking new foundations for their partnership. In the contemporary globalized landscape, collaboration with other nation-states, particularly major powers, is imperative for states to safeguard and advance their national interests. Against this backdrop, General Asim Munir’s visit to the U.S. serves as an opportunity to recalibrate common ground and address non-security issues, especially concerning Afghanistan. Although bilateral ties presently exhibit stability and lack a visible crisis, the future trajectory remains uncertain. The U.S. acknowledges the militant threats Pakistan is facing from Afghanistan. USCENTCOM Chief and Pakistan’s COAS explored different arenas of common interest, specifically collaboration in regional security matters, and emphasized enhancing training interactions between their armies. The visit holds the potential for a boost in relations. However, existing policy divergences may pose challenges to this endeavor. This visit is a pivotal moment following a period of isolation; this diplomatic venture holds promise for positive changes, as indicated by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Global acknowledgment has been bequeathed upon the contributions of the Pakistan Army and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) by key figures in the United States, paving the way for a more cooperative engagement between Pakistan and the U.S.   Pakistan, being a responsible nuclear state, has a comprehensive understanding of regional and national issues. It engaged with key stakeholders to address different perspectives on regional security, the challenges of transnational terrorism, and the importance of maintaining strategic stability in the region, with intensifying great power competition in South Asia, where India is a strategic partner of the U.S. to contain the influence of China. The U.S. policymakers have to take into account Pakistan’s concerns regarding growing military capabilities of its nuclear-armed rival that are bolstered due to strategic collaboration between Washington and New Delhi as it will further intensify the arms race in South Asia.    Pakistan aspires to be recognized as a geopolitical and geoeconomic power, advocating against bloc politics and favoring balanced relations with friendly nations. A mutually beneficial and sustainable relationship between Washington and Islamabad is in the interest of both states. Continued diplomatic engagement and regional cooperation is required to combat transnational terrorism and bringing peace not only in Afghanistan but also in the region. The U.S. is an advocate of humanitarian values being involved in various humanitarian efforts around the globe. In this regard, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza needs serious attentions from the U.S. Moreover, the commitment to international norms is depicted in the policy behavior of Pakistan. Pakistan urged immediate measures for humanitarian aid and supporting a two-state solution for lasting peace. The international community should intervene to resolve protracted conflicts such as Kashmir that has potential to inflict unprecedented damage to global peace. The U.S., being a peace broker in the lingering conflicts, will further consolidate its positioning as a sole sponsor of rule based international order.  
The views presented in this article are those of the speaker or author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

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