Since the United Nations General Assembly (session) last month, Pakistan has virtually accepted all the demands by the United States to come closer but Washington – despite showing flexibility towards Islamabad – has been hugging India tightly.
The US unprecedented warmth towards India – Pakistan’s arch-rival – has not allowed Pakistan to celebrate the improving ties with the global superpower after President Donald Trump nearly cut off the alliance and accused Pakistan of supporting terror groups. Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was unhappy with the US statements describing India as ‘global partner’ and encouraging its role in Afghanistan.
“Pak-US ties have improved, no doubt, but we are having a tough time on the diplomatic front. The improvement in Pak-US ties is not as significant as the closeness of Washington and New Delhi. It is a threatening alliance.
They are hugging India tightly and only holding our hand,” said an official, who remains in contact with Washington.
The official said: “We have been trying to convince the US to stop banking too much on India especially on the Afghanistan issue but there has been no real success so far.”
Just before his visit to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a strong message to Islamabad that his country wanted to ‘deepen co-operation’ to counter the ‘growing Chinese influence’ in Asia.
The US Secretary of State, who expected to arrive in Pakistan next week, described India as a ‘partner’ in a ‘strategic relationship.’ He said the US can never have the same relationship with ‘non-democratic’ China – a trusted friend of Pakistan.
Tillerson – who will also visit New Delhi during his South Asian trip – called India an ‘increasingly global’ partner who shared an ‘affinity for democracy and a vision of the future’.
This week, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Tillerson will discuss joint efforts against terrorism and expanding economic ties between Pakistan and the US during his upcoming visit.
She said the secretary will meet senior Pakistani leaders to “discuss continued bilateral cooperation, Pakistan’s critical role in the success of South Asia strategy of the US and the expanding economic ties between two countries.”
Tillerson will meet Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and senior military officials to discuss the anti-terror fight.
Another official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan planned a ‘give all’ policy during talks with the US Secretary of State to save the Pak-US alliance.
“We cannot afford to give away the US to India. They are already in a marriage of convenience. For the past few weeks, we have agreed to all their (the US) demands to woo them. At this point, we are ready for a give all policy. Let’s admit, we may be able to live without the US but that won’t be too easy,” he said.
The official said that Pakistan has been successful in raising the trust level with the US but the ties were far from ‘normal.’ “Washington wants us to prove loyalty. We have our own limitations. With our friendly gestures, Tillerson’s visit is expected to be fruitful,” he said.
The official said Pakistan cannot allow India to penetrate into Afghanistan further with the help of the US. “They (India) are already using the Afghan soil against us, more Indian access (to Afghanistan) means, more problems for Pakistan,” he said.
Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pak-US ties were on an ‘upward trajectory.’ He said Islamabad was ready to welcome Tillerson and other US officials as the two sides make efforts to build confidence.
The spokesperson said there had been positive developments recently in Pak-US relations. He said the recovery of the Canadian-American family had added optimism to the relations.
He said the recent statement of President Trump in which he referred to the development of ‘better relations’ with Pakistan was encouraging for the future of the partnership.
Zakaria said Pakistan does not discriminate among the terror groups and India was misleading the US in this regard.
International relations expert Dr Pervez Iqbal Cheema said the US was putting pressure on Pakistan just to appease India. “They (the US) know Pakistan is a very important country and they need its support to resolve the Afghanistan issue,” he said.
Cheema said that Pakistan had suffered a lot in the fight against terrorism and the US must acknowledge it instead of relying on the Indian version which is designed to malign Pakistan.
He said Pakistan should respond positively to the US if they offer a balanced policy towards South Asia.
Former ambassador Abida Hussain said that ice was melting between Pakistan and the US but Washington was still giving more importance to New Delhi.
“They (the US) are focusing on better ties with India as they are the largest buyers of US weaponry. India is naturally important for them but Pakistan can still move on as a partner of the US due to its strategic location,” she said.
Hussain said Pakistan should go into talks with the US in a positive frame of mind and count its successes in the war on terror.