US-Pak ties strained by anti-terror accusations hard to thaw

By Long Xingchun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/10 19:38:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a brief visit to Pakistan on September 5, during which he met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the country's Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Considering the tensions between the US and Pakistan in recent years, the international community generally believes that Pompeo's visit is aimed at improving strained bilateral relations as a new Pakistani government has taken over.

The official information released indicated that Pompeo's trip was only an exchange of views. It barely achieved substantive results. Just days before his visit, the US Department of Defense announced the cancellation of $300 million in aid to Pakistan, which could be a hurdle in improving bilateral relations.

The US accuses Pakistan of adopting a pro-Taliban policy over the issue of Afghanistan, taking insufficient counter-terrorism steps, and even conniving in terrorism. For a long time, Pakistan has paid a heavy price for the war on terror in coordination with the US. The only way to reset strained relations and promote counter-terrorism efforts is for the US to show respect for Pakistan's interests and security concerns, and for the two countries to figure out shared interests and objectives.

Peace talks, not military force, are the key to solving problems. Experience of more than a decade has proven that the Taliban is still supported by a strong social foundation in Afghanistan, and hence it is impossible to eliminate the group simply through military strikes.

The right choice is to include the Taliban into the Afghanistan peace process and consider peace talks a necessity rather than an option to solve the Afghanistan issue. In a speech following the July 25 elections that propelled him to power, Khan said Pakistan would not participate in the US war on terror, instead advocating a peaceful end to the protracted war in Afghanistan.

America's South Asia strategy has been swinging between India and Pakistan since the Cold War. Recent years have seen frequent accusations by the US and India against Pakistan over the issue of terrorism. Regarding India as its largest security rival, Pakistan is worried about India's expanding presence in Afghanistan in recent years. The US has strengthened strategic defense cooperation with India through the two plus two dialogue. Although it's mainly targeted at China, it also upset Pakistan, thus increasing Islamabad's distrust for the US.

Regional governance is a significant approach to stabilize Afghanistan. Terrorism is not only a problem for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also a regional issue for Central and South Asia. Stability cannot be achieved simply through counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Apart from the US, NATO, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the implementation of regional security governance in neighboring countries including China, Russia, India and Iran are also indispensable. Any country concerned should not take terrorism as a tool to constrain other nations. If the major countries in the region fail to cooperate, they will never win the war on terrorism.

Military strikes can only temporarily wipe out terrorist groups, but only economic and social development can eradicate the root of terrorism and extremism, thus achieving long-term stability in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. In addition to military strikes, providing military assistance to Pakistan and training Afghan security forces, the US should also work in joint efforts with related countries to help Pakistan and Afghanistan develop their economies.

The construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will not only promote Pakistan's economic and social development, but also benefit Afghanistan. If the US supports and participates in the construction of CPEC, it will be conducive to achieving stability in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region as well.

The author is a research fellow at The Charhar Institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University.


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