US, Pakistan cannot afford to cut ties off completely: report

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In a recent article by Washington Post, analysts state that while US and Pakistan ties have hit a roadblock due to irreconcilable differences, neither country can afford to cut ties off completely.

For decades, both countries have had a strategic alliance. Since the Soviet War, the countries have maintained formal ties. However, US President Donald Trump’s tweet on New Year’s has shed light on the fact that both countries now view the region’s threats through different lenses.

For Pakistan, India is an enemy in its backyard. For the US, it is a strategically and an emerging democratic party

Likewise, for Pakistan, Afghanistan is a nuisance but still a platform which the country can use to counter Indian influence. For the US, Afghanistan remains a dependent war zone.

“Pakistan and the United States have finally come to the undeniable conclusion that the other partner is playing footsie with its enemy,” said Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia expert at the US Institute for Peace in Washington, who is on an extended visit to Pakistan.

“They have given up on strategic convergence, but they want to keep the channels open so they can cooperate on tactical matters and ensure the relationship does not totally rupture.”

Since the tweet which suspended more than $300 million in security aid, both sides have acted in ways which reveal tensions in the alliance.

Despite US pressure to rein in terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and India, Pakistan has maintained its stance that it does not support these groups. Pakistan, moreover, has repeated time and time again that the country has done all it can to curb militancy and denounces terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

Some Pakistani commentators have said the country should retaliate to Trump’s ‘betrayal’ by cutting off overland supply routes provided to the US military in Afghanistan. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that ties with Washington should be severed completely given that China has become Pakistan’s most important economic partner.

However, many including senior military officials have urged restraint.

“There is no panic in Islamabad — rather, a carefully calibrated, mature and unemotional response to the raving and ranting of a mercurial leader of a declining superpower,” said Senator Mushahid Hussain. While China is building a solid, steady partnership with Pakistan, he said, the United States’ ‘bellicosity’ and expanding relationship with India and its Hindu nationalist leader “could spark a new Cold War.”

US officials, also have tried to lower the maintain ties without abandoning the administration’s demands. Calls and visits were initiated to their counterparts in Islamabad. Gen Joseph L Votel, commander of the US Central Command, told Pakistan’s army chief that the bilateral ‘turbulence’ was “a temporary phase.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, days after Trump’s tweet told reporters in Washington that both the country;s military communities would “continue talking with one another, as we always have.”. He also stated he was not concerned about China replacing the US as Pakistan’s strategic partner.

US diplomats, both current and former, have also advised keeping the door open.

Richard Olson, a former ambassador to Pakistan wrote in an essay that US sanctions would not work on Pakistan given the country’s size, military strength and national pride. He stated that in retrospect, if Islamabad cuts supply routes to Afghanistan, the US military there could become a ‘beached whale.’

Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia, last week visited Pakistan in a ‘fence-mending’ trip.

So while, there remain unresolved issues between both countries and divergent priorities continue to crop up, the message from both sides remain the same – not to slam the door shut.

This story originally appeared on Washington Post

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