Putting alliance relations back on track

Monday, 2019-07-22 16:43:38
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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a session during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan June 14, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - Reinstalling the Pakistan-US alliance relations, abolishing any suspicion and promoting essential cooperation is the main objective of Pakistani Prime Minister I. Khan's first visit to the US from July 21. With binding interests and the need for mutual support, both Islamabad and Washington have a reason to “renew” their cooperation projects that have come across many difficulties in recent years.

Pakistan prepared a long list of issues to be addressed during the US visit by Prime Minister I. Khan. Strengthening bilateral relations and coordination in regional issues, particularly cooperation in the areas of defence, energy, trade and terrorism, are among prominent topics during talks between Prime Minister Khan and President D. Trump.
However, the key goal, also the most awaited by both sides, is to restart the genuine alliance between Pakistan and the US. The two were once close allies, but recently, Pakistan and the US have been mounting in suspicion with one another and have many interruptions over their cooperation, though both sides have always needed each other’s support. Over the years, the US has supported Pakistan in building its army and developing its economy, as well as coordinate in anti-terrorism activities in neighbouring country -Afghanistan.

Pakistan has become an ally of the US in its fight against terrorism since 2001, when the US launched its military campaign to destroy the Al-Qaeda terrorist networks and overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In return, holding the status of a key ally outside NATO to the US, Islamabad has received much aid from Washington since 2002, with a total value of more than US$33 billion.

However, suspicions increased in the bilateral relations in recent years, especially after President D. Trump came to power. Washington expressed scepticism about Islamabad’s “loyalty”, when President Trump severely criticised Pakistan for offering a safe haven to what he called “agents of chaos” and accused the state of taking billions of dollars while undermining the US’ presence in Afghanistan through terror groups.

Islamabad has repeatedly denied these accusations from the White House, claiming it has spent billions of dollars on actions against terrorist and extremist groups. President D. Trump even decided in early 2018 to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the South Asian ally. Criticisms and decisions on stopping cooperation were given by both sides, their relationship as alliances were being stretched.
Strategically located in South Asia, between China and India, Pakistan has many benefits for the US to take advantage of in promoting regional interests and in the competition of influence with the two powers in Asia. In particular, Pakistan has played an important role in the fight against terrorism and also with the protection of US forces in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the United States is pushing for talks with the Taliban and Pakistan who also contributed significantly to this US effort, as well as to support a direct dialogue between Taliban and the Afghan Government. For the US, Afghanistan remains a long-term concern, while in order to get a sustainable solution for peace in Afghanistan, cooperation with Pakistan is considered indispensable.

In addition, Pakistan’s economy is facing many challenges. Islamabad desperately needs support from international financial and monetary institutions to "revive" its economy. Therefore, the US support has become more and more necessary.

Obviously, with binding interests and great demand for cooperation, both Pakistan and the US can hardly "let go" of their relationship to sink into the bottom of a crisis. This meeting between Prime Minister Khan and President D. Trump in Washington this time is expected by the two countries to put their alliance relations back on track.