Bilateral ties

Editorial Board
Saturday, Oct 01, 2022

In a second audio leak of former prime minister Imran Khan related to the cipher, Imran can be heard telling Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and his then principal secretary Azam Khan that nobody should name the United States (US) when discussing the transcript of Pakistan’s ambassador’s meeting with US official Donald Lu. In the first audio leak, Imran Khan and Azam Khan had decided to ‘play’ with the cipher. The second audio leak seems to suggest that Imran knew exactly what the cipher was -- a routine meeting’s details -- but decided to label it as a foreign conspiracy for a ‘regime change’. To most observers, it is quite apparent now, if it wasn’t before, that Imran gave little care to the risk he was placing Pakistan’s relations with the superpower in. All for a desperate -- but smartly spun -- political agenda.

Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with this paper, US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome has categorically said that there is no truth in the regime change allegations, describing such conspiracy theories as 'unfortunate'. On Pakistan's end, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has urged the US not to look at relations with Pakistan through an Afghanistan or China lens, emphasizing that ties between the two countries should stand on their own. After Imran Khan’s allegations about a US-backed regime change conspiracy, ties between Pakistan and the US had taken quite the hit and it was important that the new government mend these relations as the state of Pakistan should not – and cannot afford to -- suffer due to the irresponsible political shenanigans of a politician smarting under political defeat.

Relations between the US and Pakistan have come to the fore once again due to a variety of reasons, the least being the commemoration of 75 years of ties between the two countries. The audio leaks related to the PTI's much-flogged 'foreign conspiracy' mantra too have yet again brought the US into the limelight. Where the PDM government looks keen for a reset in ties, asking for letting 'bygones be bygones', the US envoy too has hinted at a new era of bilateral ties. Ambassador Blome has also said that all investments in Pakistan, whether American or Chinese, should be transparent and subjected to the same scrutiny. It has been reiterated time and again by foreign policy analysts in Pakistan that the country and its leadership need to maintain the strictest of balance when dealing with the world's super-and-emerging powers. In this context, it has been encouraging to hear Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari's talk about how not everything is about the geopolitical conflict of the US and China and that Pakistan should play the role of a bridge between China and the US, rather than play a part in exacerbating tensions or “being a geopolitical football”. Pakistan does indeed need to focus on what is really required during this time of great geopolitical division, and perhaps insist on the approach suggested by Mr Bhutto: "uniting these two great powers around working together for climate change”. Pakistan and China have a strong relationship and Pakistan has always tried to maintain a balance between its ties with the US and its immediate neighbour, China. While the US is a global superpower and has interests in the region, particularly because of Afghanistan, Pakistan has made it abundantly clear that it will not take sides against China under any pressure. The country must continue seeking a middle ground in this fight between mega powers. We can neither afford isolation nor subservience to any one side.