It is no secret that ties between Pakistan and the United States are going through a difficult phase. The recent visit to Pakistan of the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was illustrative of the challenges that bedevil this relationship.
The Pakistan-US relationship is one of the most consequential bilateral partnerships in the world. There has been debate within the US Congress on how to deal with Pakistan. A draft bill has already been introduced in the US Senate seeking tough actions against Pakistan for its alleged role in the victory of the Afghan Taliban.
US diplomat’s visit to India
On the eve of her arrival, the deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, used a public event in Mumbai to lay out in blunt terms the new parameters of US-Pakistan relations, stressing there would be no equivalence with Washington’s deepening ties to India.
The Islamabad trip was for “a very specific and narrow purpose”, Sherman said, to talk about Afghanistan and the Taliban.
“We don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan, and we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India-Pakistan,” she added. “That’s not where we are. That’s not where we’re going to be.”
Sherman visit Pakistan
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman arrived in Islamabad on Thursday for the talks that focused on the current situation in Afghanistan and on Washington’s efforts to evolve a coordinated approach towards Kabul’s new Taliban rulers.
She diluted her words in Pakistan but there is little ambiguity that Washington wants to deal with Pakistan in the context of what it can or cannot do to manage the Afghan situation.
The noise emanating from Capitol Hill is hostile and the narrative finding traction in Washington is that Pakistan shares the major blame for US failures in Afghanistan. This is essentially not good news for Pakistan nor indeed for the US.
Sanctions against Pakistan
A group of 22 Republican senators who moved a bill in the US Senate seeking a probe into Islamabad’s alleged role in the Afghan war also does not bode well for Pakistan.
Though the demands from the US are not clearly enunciated, certain air and land communication corridors and counterterrorism are perhaps the main assurances that the US expects of Pakistan.
The major worry for the US is that Afghanistan must not again become a safe haven for terrorist groups which could orchestrate attacks against the US. For this purpose, the US would need Pakistan’s cooperation whether that would be in the form of giving it the air space or sharing intelligence.
Diplomatic sources in Washington say that despite differences on Afghanistan and other issues, the Biden administration will continue its engagement with Pakistan.
According to these sources, future contacts may include the much-desired telephone call from US President Joe Biden to Prime Minister Imran. And there could be more bilateral talks at lower levels as well.