Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Washington and subsequent meeting with US President Donald Trump was widely covered by the international media and hailed as a success. The Trump-Imran bonhomie (especially after the Twitter Spat) and US President’ offer of mediate on Kashmir (stunning the Indian authorities) has raised many speculations.
Experts talking to EurAsian Times believe that Pakistan and the US can still stitch together a collaborative alliance and Islamabad could once again become a key ally of Washington. Pakistan has played a critical role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the table and the Trump administration is desperate to leave Afghanistan with grace. As history repeats itself, Washington again needs the help of Islamabad in Afghanistan (the first time being when the USSR invaded the country)
What has perplexed many experts is – what is cooking between the US and Pakistan that Donald Trump, out-of-the-blue, offered to intervene in the Kashmir dispute and agonized a much bigger ally and one of US’ trading partners – India?
Trump and Khan discussed other areas of partnership and Trump himself assured PM Khan of substantially expanding trade ties with Pakistan. There is no official word but experts talking to EurAsian times speculated that Washington could offer a ‘lucrative deal’ to Pakistan in return for reviewing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who backed the Saudi Crown – MBS efforts in securing the White House invitation for PM Khan, is lobbying for a free trade agreement with Pakistan. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which already extended financial assistance to Pakistan, could pump in further investments in the country. However for that to happen Pakistan may have to rework its current foreign policy (particularly towards China).
There is no hidden secret to US opposition to China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative (BRI). Alice Wells, senior State Department official, told a group of journalists in Islamabad in April that the “US welcomes the infrastructure investment by China and by all countries so far it advances the prosperity of the countries involved.”
However, the US has also accused Beijing of debt-trapping poor nations like Sri Lanka and the Maldives and advised caution to all prospective loan seekers, including Pakistan. The larger objective, as experts point out, behind US’ opposition to CPEC is to stop the rise of China as a global power.
Experts have suggested that Pakistan must follow Indian foot-steps and balance ties with both the US and China. Now that the US has extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan, Islamabad must not get mesmerized by Trump’s “charm offensive” and stay grounded and maintain a Pakistan-First foreign policy.