Right! It is interesting which makes friends and foes in International Relations. What were the expectations from the recent visit of Acting US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells during 19-22 January 2020? And what was her mission?
Pakistan welcomed her warmly and keeping the reciprocate protocol aside, held meeting with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Trade, Commerce, Industry, and Textile. ETC.
According to the Foreign Office in Islamabad “A range of bilateral issues, including political engagement and economic partnership, were discussed. It was emphasized that a strong trade and investment relationship was key to advancing the shared vision of the leadership of both countries for the long term, broad-based and enduring partnership. The Foreign Secretary highlighted the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in IOJ&K, intensified ceasefire violations from the Indian side, belligerent rhetoric of the Indian civil and military figures, and India’s aggressive measures along the LoC. The importance of the international community playing its role in the peaceful resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute was emphasized. The two sides also discussed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. The Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to continue to support the peace process and pursue the positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. Referring to Foreign Minister’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United States, and his telephone conversations with other Foreign Ministers, the Foreign Secretary underscored that Pakistan remained committed to supporting the efforts for de-escalation of tensions and promoting the prospects of a diplomatic way forward on the differences and disputes in the Middle East.”
She has served in Pakistan two decades ago and understands Pakistani society quite well. She has many good friends in Pakistan and deep penetration into Pakistani society. She also interacted with civil society and expressed her concerns on CPEC openly. She again blamed CPEC as a debt trap, expensive, lack of transparency, less beneficial to Pakistan, etc. Although all these remarks have been clarified in detail many times already, there was no logic for repetition. From her anti-CPEC sentiments, it seems that she was planned on an anti-CPEC mission specifically.
Pakistan’s civil society responded precisely and conveyed a strong message that although Pakistan wants to restore its relations with the US, keeping its national interests at prime and strategic interest with Russia and China intact, no compromise.
China and Pakistan have been firmly committed to CPEC. It is a consensus-based decision, based on principles of mutual consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. Major progress has been achieved in the past 5 years, with 32 projects achieving early harvests. This has significantly improved local transportation infrastructure and power supply, created over 75,000 jobs directly and contributed one to two percent of the GDP growth in Pakistan. It shows that CPEC is playing an important role in boosting Pakistan’s socio-economic development and improving people’s livelihood.
Pakistan has been growing its relations with Russia rapidly and entered into the strategic level. Pakistan values its friendship with Russia. Recently a high powered 64-members trade delegation has visited Pakistan and inked deals and agreements worth 9 billion US Dollars. Pakistan gives due importance to its friendship with Russia and believes this will further grow in the days to come. Pakistan cannot compromise on its priorities and strategic interests.
Pakistan understands well the ongoing US rivalry with Russia and China. The US is openly opposing BRI, resisting the rise of China and over-engaged in containing China and countering Russia. If they choose Pakistan for this purpose, they might have knocked the wrong doors.
It is worth mentioning that Pakistan was close non-NATO Ally with the US during the cold war era and front line state on its war on terror. Pakistan ensured the US strategic interests for seven decades in this part of the world. And the US achieved its vital goals in this region. Since the US has written-off Pakistan and signed “Major Defense Partner’ treaty with India, the US is facing failure one after another in this region. Pakistan has played a crucial role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table unconditionally. While US president Trump, repeatedly offered to mediate Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, yet siding with India. The US leadership understands the potential of Pakistan, especially the Military leadership is quite well aware of the importance of Pakistan.
Pakistan has become more mature and can decide its national interests independently. Pakistan may not take dictation from anyone and follow its policy of peace and development. Pakistan can be a partner to anyone in peace and will not be a partner in any war, tension, or aggression. Pakistan cannot be a ground for containing China or countering Russia. Pakistan played a vital role to establish diplomatic relations between China and the US. Pakistan will always play its due role for peace, stability in the region as well as globally.
She is a hardworking lady and struggling for improving relations with Pakistan. She possesses a soft corner for Pakistan but has to face a tough boss on her return back to Washington. She may convince Washington to focus on Pak-US bilateral relations only, without disturbing Pakistan’s strategic relations with Russia and China. The way forward is to respect Pakistan’s national interests and no more dictation or coercion.