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EDITORIAL: If Masood Khan, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, didn’t expect his call for resumption of military aid and sales, frozen by the Trump White House, to be met with a lecture on the importance of stabilising the economy and enacting IMF-mandated reforms, then he just didn’t do his homework properly.

Considering his proximity to the State Department, after serving as Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN and then ambassador to China, he should instead have explained the complete corporate takeover of American politics to Islamabad and recommended something other than pleading for a return to the old ways.

For one thing, Washington is done with Afghanistan, which explains why Trump’s decision to wind up the military relationship with Pakistan at the same time made so much sense to so many Americans.

And for another, America is the biggest source of IMF’s bailout dollars, and since they’re facing economic headwinds and another possible recession of their own, they’re obviously very concerned about throwing too much more money into a basket case like Pakistan; hence US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Elizabeth Horst’s repeated reference to reforms at the “Future of Pakistan-US relations” conference in Washington the other day.

Put another way, Islamabad is unlikely to make much progress in its quest for another reset without a fresh pound of flesh to offer or another purpose, like Afghanistan, to serve.

And until it does, it will be duly snubbed and reminded about all its weaknesses again and again, no matter how politely. This is, quite simply, the cost of doing business with the world’s biggest superpower.

There is a good lesson for us in how well and how soon India learned this, and restricted its interaction, including military-related commerce, with Washington to a bare minimum and still ended up being nominated its principal partner in the historic Pivot to Asia, which was rolled out when US President Joe Biden was vice president and handled a big part of the negotiations.

Pakistan, on the other hand, got a little too comfortable in a relationship which was, at the end of the day, nothing more than transactional.

Sure, Pakistan does have an ideal geostrategic location to sell, but it seems it never planned for the day after; when south-east Asia’s politics and conflicts would no longer be the advanced world’s number-one concern.

Countries like India depended on their democratic and economic credentials instead, and carved out their own unique identity that enabled the diplomatic position that they were willing, but never desperate, to improve relations with the west whenever it wanted.

And now that Islamabad needs to grab Uncle Sam’s attention very urgently, not just for military aid but also to get the Fund to resume the stalled EFF (Extended Fund Facility) before we really nosedive into sovereign default, we’re clueless and don’t know how to get it.

We should, however, know what does not work and stop wasting everybody’s time with needless rhetoric at the very least.

Simply wishing a change in Washington’s foreign policy – regarding Pak-US and Pak-India relations as well as the Kashmir conflict – is too unrealistic to be a part of any serous diplomatic strategy. There are simply many more, far more important factors that it must consider right now.

They include great economic turbulence in the months and possibly years ahead, unprecedented pressure on the dollar as the global reserve currency, the furious rise of China and especially the likely emergence of a new global order with Beijing and even Moscow taking Washington’s traditional place in arbitrating and/or helping end lingering conflicts between their key partner states.

If we must be heard, then we must understand how to become significant in the larger scheme of things again. And this point, sadly, seems to have skipped policymakers’ attention in Islamabad.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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TimeToMovveOn May 04, 2023 05:47am
"And now that Islamabad needs to grab Uncle Sam’s attention very urgently, not just for military aid" WHY DO YOU GUYS NEED MILITARY AID?
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