Political and foreign affairs experts in Pakistan do not expect major changes in the US policies under President Donald Trump, but some anticipate a tough time ahead as Washington may develop close relations with New Delhi.
Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand said he does not expect any major change in the US policies under Trump towards Pakistan and Afghanistan, but there are “indications the US could come much closer to India”.
“The US needs a major partner and New Delhi could be fit for it,” Xinhua news agency quoted Mohmand as saying. “As the US goes closer to India, this policy would widen gulf between Pakistan and the US,” he said.
The Pakistan-US ties had been tense during former President Barak Obama’s tenure and last year Washington stopped a $300 million military aid to Pakistan and suspended the sale of F-16 fighters at subsidised rate. The US cited Pakistan’s “lack of cooperation” in taking action against the Taliban-linked Haqqani network and bringing Afghan Taliban to the negotiations table as major reasons behind the shift in its policies, Xinhua news agency reported.
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“I think the US will keep on exerting pressure on Pakistan to take action against those who pose threat to its forces in Afghanistan. The country is likely to urge Pakistan either to bring the Afghan Taliban to the table or take action against them,” Sarfaraz Khan, director at Area Study Centre in the Peshawar University, told Xinhua. The Pakistani side insists the Haqqani network has been expelled from the North Waziristan tribal region as the result of major military offensive in 2014.
However, the US seemed dissatisfied and pressed Pakistan to “do more”. A senior Pakistani official, dealing with Afghanistan and part of many meetings with the American officials, said it was, in fact, the US that has harmed diplomatic efforts for peace process in Afghanistan. The official referred to the killing of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike in May last year.
The strike came just three days after a quadrilateral group meeting here of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US called for political negotiations to solve the Afghan problem. Pakistani lawmakers are urging Islamabad to adopt independent foreign policies and protect own interests like the US.
“Pakistan has suffered a lot because of the nature of relationship with the US. We should review our policies even if Trump, Obama or Bush rules the US or any other leader,” said Sajid Nawaz, an opposition member of Parliament.
“We should adopt independent and aggressive policies rather than looking to others. We should focus on own policies and interests,” Nawaz from Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party told Xinhua.
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Rahimullah Yousafzai, a senior Pakistani journalist who writes on security and foreign affairs, said the whole world has serious concerns about Trump’s approach as spelt out during his election campaign.
“Trump will mainly focus on internal matters. I think, like his predecessors, he would also have complaints about Pakistan regarding Afghanistan,” Yousafzai opined.
The majority were disappointed at some of Trump’s remarks during his media interaction about Pakistan, including his remarks to order the repatriation of Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who is accused of helping the US military carry out operation that killed Al Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden in his hideout near Islamabad.
In spite of suspicions expressed by independent analysts about the Trump administration’s possible approach, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry insists the new President has “considerable goodwill towards Pakistan”.
“We are looking forward to working with the new administration. We have a long-standing relationship with the US,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said on Thursday when asked about Islamabad’s expectations and apprehensions about the Trump administration.