The US-Pakistan relationship is in “serious trouble” and the mistrust between the two countries runs deep, an expert on the bilateral ties at a top American think-tank has said, a day after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister concluded his three-day visit to Washington. Moeed Yusuf, a senior expert on Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace, a top American thin-tank funded by the Congress said that the default position in Islamabad and Washington was very sceptical of other’s intentions. “The sense that I have is that this relationship is in serious trouble,” Yusuf told PTI yesterday.
His remarks came a day after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif concluded his three-day official trip to Washington during which he met Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H R McMaster. “The foreign minister said himself something to that effect, Yusuf said, pointing to the remarks made by Asif at an event after his meetings with Tillerson and McMaster. “I won’t be extravagant. Meeting with Secretary of State went very well. Meeting with McMaster, I will be a bit cautious about, but it was good. It wasn’t bad. I think we need to pursue this course of contact in discussions and exchange of views. I think we need to pursue it more rigorously,” Asif said when asked what message he was taking back.
A known expert on US-Pakistan relationship, Yusuf said the real issue here was that of mistrust. “The mistrust is so deep and that is going to be very difficult for both sides to work a way out in which they would essentially rely on each other, trusting that they would be sincere to whatever is being done. On both sides the default position is one that is very sceptical of the intentions on the other side,” he said. Yusuf said that no one should expect “a major breakthrough” anytime soon.
At best this relationship is going to muddle through and limp along till both sides are able to find a way to work together or till there is a sense that both sides are willing to give and take in a way that the other feels that there is a real incentive to do that, he said. “Right now, I do not think that that is the case,” he said, adding that both the US and Pakistan recognise that the rupture is going to be costly and would hurt them in Afghanistan. “I do think that this is the first time there is a possibility that the relationship could come to a standstill despite neither side seeing this as the preferred option,” Yusuf said.
Observing that there is a very serious divergence of interest when it comes to Afghanistan, Yusuf said Pakistan sees “a very curtailed” Indian influence in the war-torn country. “The US view of stability in Afghanistan is one that sees a much larger influence for India by default, because of the Kabul’s preference, but also a role for itself ensuring that there are no continued threats coming out of Afghanistan for the US,” he said, explaining the sharp difference emerging between the two countries on the role of regional players in Afghanistan.
Noting that the US’ message to Pakistan consistently has been the need to do more on terror sanctuaries. “I think there’s a clear message delivered again that that needs to be dealt with but not in terms of promises but in terms of actions,” he said.
The Pakistani view is that it is being scapegoated and the problems really lie in Afghanistan and Pakistan part of the problem is being exaggerated, he said, referring to Asif’s post-meeting remarks. “I think this was also candidly conveyed to the Pakistani side,” he said, adding that the meetings between the US and Pakistani officials this week were candid and both sides laid their cards on the table.
However, there is definitely no appetite for an imminent rupture on either side, Yusuf said. Responding to a question on India’s role, Yusuf said Pakistan’s Afghan policy reflected how it views its relationship with India.