The United States is seeking better relations with Pakistan after what many commentators call a reset following the ouster of Imran Khan’s government in April 2022. He accused the US of conspiring to remove him, a charge Washington has vehemently rejected.
In the latest sign of a thaw in the otherwise frosty relations is the visit of a senior US diplomat who arrived in the crisis-ridden South Asian nation on February 16. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet headed a delegation of senior US government officials from the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development to Pakistan.
Chollet’s visit is the first by any high-level US official since Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif succeeded Khan. The visit is seen as a first step for Islamabad and Washington to repair ties. Earlier Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari visited at least four times in what officials call an effort to repair the relations.
In his meetings with Pakistani officials, Chollet said the US and Pakistan shared “decades of bilateral cooperation and support.” The two countries “have a robust partnership,” a US embassy statement quoted Chollet as saying. The statement said the US delegation met with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, and other ministers of Sharif’s cabinet.
— U.S. Embassy Islamabad (@usembislamabad) February 17, 2023
“We look forward to strengthening our relationship in trade, investment, climate, clean energy, health, security, education, and other shared priorities,” said Counselor Chollet.
In the meeting with Zardari, the two sides discussed strengthening the bilateral partnership, including increased economic ties as Pakistan continues to recover and rebuild following the 2022 devastating floods.
The US has, so far, provided more than $200 million in assistance to support disaster resilience and flood response efforts in Pakistan.
– Appreciated recent momentum in bilateral engagement
– Discussed cooperation in trade, energy, security, climate, health and other areas
– Reaffirmed commitment to further deepen 🇵🇰 🇺🇸 ties pic.twitter.com/vrMjoMtvmZ
— Spokesperson 🇵🇰 MoFA (@ForeignOfficePk) February 17, 2023
Counselor Chollet discussed security cooperation and counterterrorism efforts during his meeting with the army chief, Gen Munir, the statement said.
The second round of mid-level defense dialog was also held from Feb.13-16 in Washington DC.
During the talks, issues of bilateral defense and security cooperation were discussed, a statement by the Pakistani foreign ministry said. Many Pakistan watchers and media in the US have reported that Pakistan is seeking US help and support for a new military operation against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorists, it is reportedly weighing.
The nearly bankrupt Pakistan will need more aid and IMF packages to be able to fund such a campaign against terrorists who have re-emerged in Swat valley and bordering districts of erstwhile FATA. The US State Department said that its ties with Pakistan were vital for American defense. But it was still unclear if Washington was considering resuming stalled security assistance to Pakistan.
A sitting minister under the military’s own hand-picked government claimed on February 19 that former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence General Faiz Hameed was responsible for the Taliban’s presence.
“At that time, Gen Faiz had suggested that they [TTP] should be brought into the mainstream but it backfired,” said Riaz Pirzada, Human Rights Minister in Shahbaz Sharif’s cabinet in an interview with English language daily Dawn.
A COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP
The relationship between the US and Pakistan has been complex and multifaceted, with both countries pursuing their interests while also experiencing occasional tensions and disagreements.
Historically, the United States has had a strong relationship with Pakistan, particularly during the Cold War era, when Pakistan was seen as a key ally in the fight against communism in the region. However, this relationship has been marked by significant ups and downs.
One of the key issues that has strained relations between the two countries in recent years is the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been accused of providing support to the Taliban and other militant groups, and the United States has repeatedly pressed Pakistan to take stronger action against these groups.
There have also been tensions over issues such as human rights, democracy, and nuclear proliferation. The United States has expressed concerns about the state of democracy and human rights in Pakistan, while Pakistan has been critical of the United States’ policies in the region.
Despite these challenges, the two countries have continued to engage with each other, particularly on issues related to counterterrorism and regional stability. The United States has also provided significant economic and military aid to Pakistan over the years, although conditions and restrictions have often accompanied this aid.
Overall, the relationship between the US and Pakistan is complex and influenced by a range of factors. While there have been periods of significant cooperation and partnership, there have also been times when tensions and disagreements have threatened to derail the relationship.