A new report by a prominent American think-tank on Tuesday calls for improved Pakistan-US relations, stating such a course would lead to better stability in the region threatened by terrorism, as US troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
“A US strategy for Asia that does not contemplate Pakistan’s role is incomplete, and a US strategy for Pakistan that primarily considers its role in the context of Afghanistan is shortsighted,” writes Daniel Markey, an expert on South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which released the report on Tuesday.
A reoriented US strategy for Pakistan is “necessary, timely and more likely than the current approach to advance US aims in Pakistan and throughout the wider region,” said Markey, a former State Department official.
Entitled “Re-orienting US Pakistan Strategy: From Af-Pak to Asia,” the report lays stress on regional stability, stating that any conflict between Pakistan and India could prove to have disastrous long-term consequences for all countries in the area and the US as well. “An armed conflict between India and Pakistan, or a major Pakistan-based terror attack on India, would not only disrupt India’s booming economy but also affect wider regional stability,” the report said.
Not only regional stability, Markey also repeatedly calls for regional integration as the critical factors in allowing Pakistan to improve itself and, by extension, Asia as a whole.
Calling it the “two-pronged approach,” the report stated that Pakistan should open dialogue with the US, India, and China for the purposes of counter-terrorism and domestic security, and that the US should take a leadership role in helping Pakistan develop amicable relationships – commercial, political, whatever it may be – with its neighbouring nations.
Among Markey’s suggestions for regional integration are “a trade agreement with India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan that would offer preferential access to American markets on the condition that those countries reduce barriers to intraregional trade,” US support of a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project, and that the US “focus its civilian aid on other trade-related infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and ports.”
The main take-away from the report is that regardless of what route the US chooses to take with Pakistan, the consequences for the Asian region will be felt around the world. The US must ultimately consider all possible outcomes before deciding its next move, Markey said. “A clean break between Pakistan and the United States seems unlikely, despite simmering disagreements over a number of issues,”Markey stated.
“Also unlikely is a full rapprochement. That said, if it chose to do so, Pakistan could contribute to the advancement of US priorities in Asia, Afghanistan, and the war on terror, but the country’s weak governance, slow economic growth, and growing nuclear arsenal combine to cast serious doubt on whether it will so choose.”
Markey also proposes that the United States restructure its military aid to Pakistan, decoupling it from the war in Afghanistan and focusing (as well as conditioning) it instead on Pakistan’s efforts to fight violent extremism within its borders.