Diplomacy is not merely a piece of cake but a substantially demanding and specialized field of fostering international relations and orchestrating strategic negotiations between states. However, given the recent state of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, it appears more challenging, subtle and convoluted.
Once close allies, especially in the war on terror, the U.S. and Pakistan have now lost their touch, and are engaged in diplomatic dissension that has led to both countries restricting the movement of each other’s diplomats.
A couple of days ago, the U.S. government intimidated Pakistan by restricting their diplomat’s movement unless U.S. envoys in Pakistan are enabled to call on desired areas. The areas include Pakistan’s most populous city Karachi, the semi-autonomous tribal districts known together the as the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) and some parts of the province Balochistan.
Pakistan responded to the action by clarifying existing high-security concerns in the anticipated areas, for which, the U.S. Department of State has already barred their attachés from visiting amid possible terrorism fears.
Trump’s administration, ignoring Pakistan’s qualms, has limited the movement of Pakistani diplomats posted in Washington DC. With this restraint, the emissaries cannot travel beyond a 40-kilometer radius of their offices without permission beforehand.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. Pakistan, which finds itself between a rock and a hard place after this derogatory move, has responded by imposing similar travel restrictions on the U.S. envoys. They will taste their own medicine and won’t be able to move candidly in the country nor enjoy the privileges they were experiencing before.
This tit for tat diplomatic dispute has painted a grim picture of the rapidly worsening ties and the recent movement restrictions can further harm the already failing relationship.
This current down spiral in the strategic relations between the U.S. and Pakistan began last year when the Pentagon initially held back the $300 million coalition support fund. Later, President Donald J. Trump’s administration suspended nearly all security aid to Pakistan for “stabbing the U.S. in the back” and not taking adequate actions against the Haqqani militants, a Taliban offshoot operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions.
The Trump administration wants Pakistan to increase pressure on the terror groups that still exist in troubled areas within its borders and are considered a threat to peace development in Afghanistan. Besides that, the leaders of the five emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and China, the all-weather friend of Pakistan, have also shown their concerns over these militant groups and have called for their patrons to be held to account.
These restrictions will add insult to injury for Pakistan as the decision will internationally portray, unjustly, a negative image of Pakistan as America’s adversaries such as Iran and Cuba. Over and above, these restrictions will adversely impact the Pakistani American community that is working hands in hands with their countrymen to serve and engage in the community and promotes Pakistani culture in the U.S.
The world order is on the cusp of change with potential power realignment between rival nuclear powers. After Washington’s hardline policy towards Islamabad, including threatening its major non-NATO ally status, the later will unquestionably look to build bridges with emerging powers in the region that may lead towards the making of an axis of Pakistan, China and least part of Russia.
This alliance can bring about a potent bipolarity in the global affairs and will challenge the greater status quo in the region. However, a coalition with China along with few supporters in the Western and Islamic worlds carries some of its weight but partnering with Russia in this calculus can be an undeniable strategic advantage for Pakistan while being worrisome for Washington.
Diplomats are tasked to represent their country’s interests abroad but restricting their movement can leave them in a lurch and damage their self-esteem. Moreover, these limitations hinder their active engagement in fostering socio-cultural and diplomatic ties with the indigenous community.
Amid this increased tension, the outgoing Pakistani government has announced the deployment of a new ambassador, Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, who was formerly serving as a special assistant to the prime minister of Pakistan. Taking charge for this subtle portfolio, amidst the current predicament, would be a challenging venture for the new envoy. To land on his feet, and to get his technocratic skills acknowledged in soothing his country’s relations with the world’s sole superpower are all uphill tasks.
However, the unlucky new ambassador is already under investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of Pakistan, over alleged embezzlement in the national bursary, which might leave his appointment no more than a lame duck move.
However, once in a blue moon, such hard times surface in diplomatic relationships. Because it takes two to tango, mighty leaders from both countries must go back to the drawing board and review each other’s apprehensions and take steps to bury the hatchet.
Pakistan must heed the U.S.’ concerns and take them seriously to clean the air, eschew from putting wool over the other’ eyes and play an earnest role to relieve the diplomatic tension between the two nuclear powers. On the other hand, the U.S. must acknowledge the enormous costs and sacrifices Pakistan made in the war against terrorism and fathom its concerns over India’s presence in Afghanistan.
Despite recent strains, both countries still cooperate in various crucial fragments including defense and education, which need to continue for the broader reconciliation process to build stronger relations and delivering peace in the region.
Every cloud has a silver lining: strategic relations between both countries can come to a normal once they are on the same page. In this era when major power realignments are being engineered, these two nuclear powers must be on the ball, think outside the box and make decisions to bring about the evolution of cooperation before they miss this boat to reconciliation.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.