Pakistan presents blueprint for bilateral ties with U.S., based on economy and not on security, defence ties: Report

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

Seeking a “paradigm shift” in its ties with the U.S., Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf has presented to his American counterpart Jake Sullivan a blueprint to enhance bilateral relations not based on security and defence but focussing on economy and trade, according to a media report on Wednesday.

Mr. Yusuf, who was appointed as the National Security Advisor (NSA) this month, met Mr. Sullivan on Sunday in Geneva. In a first in-person high-level meeting, the Pakistani and the U.S. NSAs held wide-ranging talks on the bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Breaking from the past practice, Mr. Yusuf presented the Pakistani plan, seeking bilateral cooperation with the U.S. not based on security and defence but economy, trade and business.

Sources familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that Pakistan is seeking a “paradigm shift” in its approach as far as ties with the U.S. are concerned.

The relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. has often been seen as transactional as Islamabad for long relied on the country’s strategic location for leverage with Washington.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump had suspended all security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018, arguing that he was not satisfied with Islamabad’s cooperation and role in the fight against terrorism.

However, there has been a consensus among the policymakers that Pakistan needs to move away from geo-strategic to geo-economics. At an Islamabad Security Dialogue held earlier this year, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership talked about that shift.

In line with that approach, Prime Minister Imran Khan in March formed an Apex Committee that was tasked with formulating a new strategy on ties with the U.S. under the Biden administration, the report said.

The 14-member committee is headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and comprises ministers for finance, national food security, economic affairs, information technology, national security advisor, and Prime Minister’s aides on commerce, climate change, human resource development, power, and investment.

The Terms of Reference of the committee solely focussed on finding ways and means to seek cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S. in the fields of economy, trade, business, energy, technology, and climate change.

This is seen as a clear departure from the earlier approach adopted by Pakistan and the U.S. that largely focussed on security cooperation with Afghanistan.

Sources said Moeed went to Geneva with a ‘blueprint’ envisaging Pakistan’s desire to broaden its relationship with the U.S. beyond security cooperation and Afghanistan, according to the report.

Different ministries and departments made several proposals identifying potential areas of cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S.

The Board of Investment (BoI) has proposed to attract more U.S. foreign direct investment in Pakistan, especially through technology firms. The BoI also seeks U.S. investment through special incentive regimes.

The Ministry of Commerce has suggested that an American-Pakistan Economic Zone could be set up near Karachi port to allow reprocessing at concessional rates.

It has also proposed to enhance structured engagement through TIFA Ministerial Council and Business Opportunities Conference. Last time, the TIFA council meeting was held in May 2019. The U.S.-Pakistan TIFA is the primary mechanism for both countries to discuss trade and investment issues and focus on ways to strengthen the bilateral relationship.

The United States continues to be Pakistan’s largest market for exports. The Ministry of Commerce has also sought early finalisation of proposed legislation on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, which had been promised by the Bush administration in return for Pakistan’s support to the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

“However, it is not clear if the Biden administration is receptive to the idea given its strategic priorities and close ties with India. Also, close ties between Pakistan and China can be a major factor that may desist the U.S. from seeking broader engagement with Pakistan,” the report said.

It is believed that given the conversation, Pakistani authorities have had so far with the new U.S. administration, Washington has linked future cooperation with Pakistan delivering on the Afghan peace process.

Unlike the past, this time the U.S. does not want to give any incentives to Pakistan before the Afghan endgame. If there is a peace deal to the satisfaction of the U.S., there is a likelihood of Washington offering certain incentives to Islamabad on trade, economy, and other issues.

Meanwhile, sources said Moeed may visit Washington soon following his recent meeting with his American counterpart, the report said.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 12:52:34 AM |

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