Amid ‘no to America’ chants at a Peshawar rally by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has received good wishes from US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, who on Wednesday congratulated Shehbaz Sharif for becoming the prime minister of Pakistan and pledged to continue his country’s long-standing ties and working relationship with Pakistan’s government. This is a welcome statement by a top Biden government official, breaking a thaw that existed when President Biden started off his presidential tenure in the White Office. Pakistan and the US have a history of partnership on wide-ranging strategic and political interests. A statement issued by the office of Blinken acknowledged that his country “views a strong, prosperous and democratic Pakistan as essential for the interests of both countries”.
The feeling is mutual as the Prime Minister’s Office has also reiterated the need for cooperation with the US with constructive engagement to achieve “shared goals of peace, security and development in the region”. The statement from the US State Secretary opens a new vista of the relation between the two countries after a lull of almost two years, when the Biden government started a policy of ‘no-engagement’ with Islamabad, despite Pakistan’s valuable contribution to US-Taliban dialogues and later on, during the evacuation of the US and other allied countries’ personnel from Kabul after the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. During these two years, Pakistan was engaged with low-level bureaucracy, whenever the need emerged. The invisible rift pushed Pakistan to explore the diplomatic frontiers beyond the comfort zone of Europe and the US, and the ultimate choice available was Russia. When former prime minister Imran Khan undertook the Russian visit, the hosts had already begun war with their neighbouring Ukraine. A right move at a bad time affected Pakistan’s ties with the West.
In recent weeks, the US remained in the local media after the ‘lettergate’ struck our political fault lines. The new government has vowed to investigate the issue in the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, whereas the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf wants a judicial commission to look into it. The issue must reach its logical conclusion, and until a probe is done, Imran Khan must show restraint. Imran Khan must realize the sensitivity of the issue and the strings attached to the US. This political adventure may damage Pakistan-US ties, which will further isolate Pakistan in the West. Other than the US, the new government has received wishes from China, Turkey, Malaysia, and India, all key players in regional politics. Taking advantage of the occasion, Pakistan, with the help of international powers, must press the Indian government to resolve the Kashmir issue, and start mutual trade. Both countries have suffered due to long-standing rivalry.