Mending ties.

Byline: Touqir Hussain

IT is a rare moment in the history of US-Pakistan relations. Traditionally, they have either been up or down, or suffered from what is often referred to as 'benign neglect' by Washington. But right now, relations seem to be going neither up nor down. And Washington is not neglecting but ignoring Pakistan.

The reality is that Pakistan cannot be ignored. It will remain relevant for Washington because of its location at the crossroads of Afghanistan, Russia, China, India and Iran. Pakistan's relations with China impact the US Indo-Pacific strategy, and its tensions with India undermine New Delhi's capability to balance China. While Pakistan may not be able to bring peace in Afghanistan it can certainly prevent it. Indeed, Pakistan can facilitate or complicate US interests in the region.

But the problem is, Washington seems tired of the relationship. Political rhetoric on both sides is not helping either especially on the US side where there is a resurgence of US criticism of Pakistan's role in the failure of the Afghanistan war.

Yet that is not the whole picture. At a Congressional hearing in September, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that in times ahead the US will not just look at 'the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that'.

The reality is that Pakistan cannot be ignored.

Obviously, Washington has long- and short-term interests in mind. In the long run, the US would be interested in limiting Chinese political and economic influence in Pakistan. At the least, Washington would like to ensure that Pakistan does not undermine America's Indo-Pacific strategy.

But Washington is not focused on the long run surrounded as it is by many uncertainties principally the future of US-China tensions. Washington also sees ambiguities in Pakistan's regional policies and lack of resolve in improving the economy, ambivalence in the fight against extremism, and indifference to creating an environment of trust in relations with Washington. No surprise that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman had said during her recent visit to India that Washington was looking for a relationship with Pakistan that served only a 'narrow and specific' purpose.

Pakistan wants a broad-based relationship but Washington is uninterested not just because of pressures coming from its extraordinary relationship with India but largely...

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