Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is back in the US, this time formally to discuss the bilateral relations between the two countries. Earlier, he was there few weeks ago, speaking at different institutions, trying to find the American mood, after the hard-hitting speech by Trump on Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s role.
Khawaja Asif seems to have done his home work. After his earlier visit to the US, there was an internal meeting in Pakistan; the National Security Council had a long discussion where Asif was present. Immediately after the NSC meeting, Pakistan’s Army Chief took a delegation to Kabul. Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan President talked about a “new season” after meeting with the Pakistani delegation. It is obvious, that Pakistan has taken the Trump threat seriously.
For Asif Khwaja, the assignment in Washington is likely to be four fold: Ensure Pakistan remains a part of major decision making process in Afghanistan and not seen as a problem. Maintain the sanctity of Durand Line and avoid any military confrontation between the Afghan-US and Pakistani troops in the future. Warn the US of expanding the drone programme beyond the tribal region. And more importantly, limit the Indian presence and engagement in Afghanistan.
So, what are his trump cards to convince the US on the above points? Obviously the TINA factor – There Is No Alternative for the US other than working with Pakistan in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been using this strategy well since 2001. There is an element of truth and bluff in the above Pakistan position. Will the US work on the first, and call off the second?
The statement made by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on 4 October is interesting and goes beyond the bilateral relations. He was quoted to have said: “We have concerns about the future of Pakistan’s government too, in terms of them — we want their government to be stable. We want it to be peaceful. And many of the same issues they’re struggling with inside of Pakistan are our issues.” If the above is the American reading of domestic developments within Pakistan, what does this mean further?