PM Khan wants 'civilized' relationship with US after Afghan withdrawal
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said Pakistan would want a civilized relationship with the US, which you have between nations, and would like to improve the trading relationship with the U.S.
In an interview with the New York Times, the prime minister further elaborated that he wanted the relationships between Pakistan and the United States in line with the relations between the U.S. and Britain, or actually between U.S. and India right now.
He said it was a lopsided relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. as the latter felt that they were giving aid to Pakistan, they felt that Pakistan then had to do U.S.’s bidding.
“And what Pakistan did in terms of trying to do the U.S. bidding actually cost Pakistan a lot in human lives. Seventy thousand Pakistanis died, and over $150 billion were lost to the economy because there were suicide bombings and bombs going on all over the country. That’s where the problem began. The U.S. kept expecting more from Pakistan. And unfortunately, Pakistani governments tried to deliver what they were not capable of.”
He said there was this mistrust between the two countries and people in Pakistan felt they paid a heavy, heavy price for this relationship and the U.S. thought Pakistan had not done enough.
“So in that sense, it was a lopsided relationship. What we want in the future is a relationship based on trust and common objectives. That’s actually what we have right now with the U.S. — I mean, our objectives in Afghanistan are exactly the same today.”
About Pakistan’s strategic relevance for the US after the Afghanistan exit, PM Khan said the states really have relationships based on common interests and Pakistan is a country of 220 million people, a young population, in a sense strategically placed for the future if our relationship with India improves at some point.
“So we have one of the biggest markets on one side of Pakistan, and then China on another side. So two of the biggest world markets. And then the energy corridor, Central Asia, Iran, if that relationship improves between the U.S. So Pakistan, in that sense, is strategically placed for the future in terms of economics.”
About the military and security relationship going forward between the US and Pakistan said he was not clear that post the U.S. withdrawal, what sort of military relationship it will be.
“But right now, the relationship should be based on this common objective that there is a political solution in Afghanistan before the United States leaves because Pakistan doesn’t want a civil war, a bloody civil war in Afghanistan. And I’m sure neither does the U.S. after it leaves, it wants the country going up in flames after spending, God knows, $1 or $2 trillion. So that’s a common objective.”
Maximum leverage on Taliban
He said Pakistan has used the maximum leverage it could on the Taliban to avoid a civil war in Afghanistan.
“Basically, Pakistan was the country that had recognized Taliban, one of three countries after 1996. Given that the United States gave a date of withdrawal, from then onward, our leverage diminished on the Taliban. And the reason is that the moment the United States gave a date of exit, the Taliban basically claimed victory. They’re thinking that they won the war. And so therefore, our ability to influence them diminishes the stronger they feel. So the leverage we used was to bring them on — they were refusing to have talks, so it was Pakistan who got them to talk to the United States. And secondly, it was us pressurizing them, and really, it was [us] very toughly pushing them, pressurizing them to talk to the Afghan government. So that’s how far Pakistan has got.”
He said Pakistan has been emphasizing to the Taliban that they should not go for a military victory because it’s not going to happen, because if they go for an all-out military victory, it would mean a protracted civil war. And the country that would be affected by a civil war, after Afghanistan, would be Pakistan and we would be affected because there are more Pashtuns in Pakistan than in Afghanistan, he added.
“And since the Taliban is primarily a Pashtun movement, this will have two effects. One, we are scared that this will be another influx of refugees into Pakistan. Already, the country has found it very difficult to cope with three million Afghan refugees. And so there will be another influx into Pakistan. Secondly, our vision for the future is lifting our economy and trading through Afghanistan into Central Asia. We have signed very good trade deals with the Central Asian republics, but we can only go there through Afghanistan. If there is a civil war, all that goes down the drain.”
Pakistan to back Afghan govt selected by people
He said during his visit to Afghanistan earlier this year, Pakistan gave our full support to the Afghan government, telling them it will do everything for this peace settlement.
“There’s frequent exchanges between our intelligence agencies and the Afghan intelligence agencies, and between our army chief and the Afghan president and their army chief. So there has been constant communication between us. Unfortunately, there is still a feeling in the Afghan government that Pakistan could do more, which I have to say is very disappointing to us when they blame us for being unable to, after so many years, to come to some sort of a settlement.
“Let me assure you, we will do everything except use military action against the Taliban. I mean, we will do everything up to that. All sections of our society have decided that Pakistan will take no military action. We unfortunately — and I have to say, I opposed this military action — the United States pressured Pakistan to send its troops into the tribal areas, to flush out maybe a few hundred Al Qaeda [militants] who had come into Pakistan from Afghanistan after [the Battle of] Tora Bora. Remember, the whole border [was] completely open. There was never any border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is called the Durand Line. Now, we are fencing it, and almost 90 percent of the border, we’ve fenced now. What if [the] Taliban try to take over Afghanistan through [the] military? Then we will seal the border, because now we can, because we have fenced our border, which was previously [open], because Pakistan does not want to get into, number one, conflict. Secondly, we do not want another influx of refugees.”
About a question that whether Pakistan will recognize the Taliban if they do carry out a full military takeover in Afghanistan, Khan said Pakistan will only recognize a government which is chosen by the people of Afghanistan, whichever government they choose.
On Pak-India relations, Khan said it is a peculiar ideology of the R.S.S., which Narendra Modi belongs to, which just came up against a brick wall. He said had there been another Indian leadership, Pakistan would have had a good relationship with them and would have resolved all our differences through dialogue.
He said keeping the status quo on Kashmir, would be a disaster for India because it will just mean that this conflict festers on and on and so as long as it festers, it’s going to stop there being any relationship — normal relationship — between Pakistan and India.
He said it was very, very odd that why the U.S. and China would become these great rivals.
“It makes no sense because the world would really benefit if the two giants, economic giants, really got along and traded with each other. So it would be a benefit for all of us. Secondly, why do we have to choose sides — either it’s the U.S. or China? I think we should have a relationship with everyone. China has been very good to us, in the sense that after the war on terror, or during the war on terror, we took a real battering in this country. Our debt went up, which happens when a country is in a war situation. Business activity freezes. The provinces and the tribal areas were devastated by this war. So China is the country that came to Pakistan’s help. And obviously we’ve had a long relationship with China. So number one, I do not see why the U.S. should think that India is going to be this bulwark against China. If India takes on this role, I think it would be detrimental for India because India’s trade with China is going to be beneficial for both India and China.”