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Improving Pak-US relations

It appears that the dust of President Trump harsh tweet accusing Pakistan of telling ‘lies’ and committing ‘deceit in return for receiving billions of dollars has gradually settled down, and  bitter tone public posturing of Pakistan ,s civilian leadership for public consumption has gone to the back ground. Away from public notice, Pakistan and the United States are working their way out of current impasse gradually through ‘Quite diplomacy’ carried out by the career diplomats of foreign office. Although relations between the two ostensible allies hit a new low after President Trump scathing New Year tweet, the two countries remained in touch to find some common ground on critical issues-including the Afghan endgame.

As a part of quiet diplomacy, there have been flurry of exchanges between the two countries over the past two weeks. Trumps senior aid, Lisa Curtis, was in Islamabad long ago and held low level meeting both with foreign office and military officials. Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua travelled to Washington then to meet senior US administration officials. The discrete efforts have started paying dividends then, as there is softening of the US public posturing. The two sides have covered considerable ground in ongoing talks on a number of issues-including how to put an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s strategic grievances.

It is note worthy that CENTCOM Chief General Joseph Votel and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia, Alice Well have spoken positively of Islamabad’s role in the resolution of Afghan conflict. The top US Commander, in a statement before a panel of Congress admitted that Pakistan has indeed taken some significant steps recently over the last of couple of months. Likewise Alice Wells, during a session on Afghanistan and Kabul peace process at the US Institute of Peace in Washington said on Friday that US believes that Pakistan can play a much more important role in shaping in shaping in Afghan Taliban behavior. She stressed on Pakistan’s critical role to provide incentives to Afghan Taliban for understanding the value of negotiations with Ashraf Ghani Government. “Pakistan has also interest that it wants to ensure are met during the course of stabilization of Afghanistan which we take seriously, “She told the audience. So the dialogue that we have with Pakistan whether it is through military or civilian channels seeks to address these concerns.

Efforts towards the restoration of peace in Afghanistan are moving in the right direction. US Defense Secretary, James Mattis in his unannounced visit of Kabul on Tuesday and after meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed that some elements of the Taliban are open to talks with the Afghan government. As a confidence building measures, the US has made successful drone attacks against the TTP and Daesh in Afghanistan and announced head money of $ 5 million on TTP Ckief Maulana Fazalullah , $ 3 million each for another prominent figure Wali Muhammad alias Khalid Umer Khrasani and Lashkar-e- Islam Chief Mangal Bagh. These are significant developments in the contest of Afghanistan peace process. But the incumbent PML-N government has shown a non-serious attitude towards the improvement of Pak-US relations for which a discrete attitude has to be demonstrated instead of public outburst by the federal Ministers against the United States and either  ill conceived or deliberate decision of appointing a businessman Jahangir Ali instead of a veteran career diplomat at Washington at a time when the signs of a negotiated settlement of Afghan issue have emerged  which has made this region a powder keg for the last 38 years. It is time that the civilian leadership to take seriously the valuable input from the foreign office on the Afghan imbroglio and earnestly pursues the national interest in the Afghan endgame. The crisis in domestic politics should not be given preference over the emerging opportunity of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

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