Categorized | South Asian Politics

Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the United States: A Score Card

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari


Nawaz Sharif completed his four day visit to the United States on October 23 with a meeting with President Barack Obama. The political circles in Pakistan are now debating the outcome of this visit. Two factors are influencing this analysis. First, the active political circles are evaluating the visit on the basis of their party affiliations. The Tehrik-i-Insaf people appear to be extremely critical of the visit. The same can be said about the Jamaat-i-Islami whose leadership has been making negative comments. Some militant Islamic groups and Islamic parties are criticizing it in varying degrees. The PPP, the PMLQ, the MQM and the ANP are cautious in their comments. The activists of these political parties may criticize some aspects of the outcome or the management of the visit but they have not rejected it altogether.

  Second, Pakistan’s government is responsible for increasing the expectations of the people about the visit. It created an emotional hysteria in public on the drone strikes by describing how damaging were these strikes. They created the impression that the Pakistan government could no longer tolerate this and that the U.S. would accept the demand. They also created excitement on the Afia Siddiqui issue and the Kashmir issue. The Foreign Office and Pakistan Embassy in Washington should have known the position of the United States on these issues but they still let the political government create false hopes. In this way the Sharif government became a victim of its own propaganda when their propagated agenda on these issues did not materialize.

  On Kashmir, the U.S. policy is clear. It views Kashmir as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan but does not insist on the implementation of the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. It does not offer a solution of the Kashmir problem from its side. Nor does it want to play the role of a mediator. It encourages India and Pakistan to hold talks on Kashmir and agree on a solution. If a solution is agreed upon by India and Pakistan the U.S. will help to implement it. However, it does not want an armed conflict on Kashmir because of the fear of its escalation to a full-fledged war. The non-official circles and think-tanks working on South Asian affairs have floated some proposals for settling the Kashmir problem but these proposals are non-official in nature and the U.S. Administration does not own them.

 Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington has produced mixed results. It has reactivated and expanded interaction between Pakistan and the U.S. in the economic and social development sectors and military sales. The cooperation in economic and social development sectors was already going on. This cooperation is expected to be more active with a focus on energy, education and health care, strengthening democracy, capacity-building of state institutions, support to agriculture and agriculture-related job generating activities and training of people in various skills for improving their performance and helping them to earn their living. The military sales stalled at the end of 2011 will now revive. .

 The U.S. has paid to Pakistan 322 million dollars as reimbursement for the expenses in relation to countering terrorism in the past. This amount was blocked by the U.S. in 2012. More payments are expected in the future from what the U.S. describes as the Coalition Support Fund. The U.S. has also agreed to release 1.6 billion dollars for economic development and military sales. This amount was withheld in the past. It will now be released starting from January 2014.

 The U.S. seeks Pakistan’s cooperation for transit of its goods and other materials, including military equipment, from Afghanistan through Pakistan to Karachi port for onward shipment. Some goods have already passed through this channel. Most of American goods will pass through Pakistan in 2014. Pakistan and the U.S. have also reiterated their support for the Kabul government to stabilize itself after 2014.

  The disagreements between Pakistan the U.S. are also noticeable and these are likely to persist for a long time. Pakistan wanted the U.S. to stop the use of drone aircraft in Pakistani tribal areas. This was not acceptable to the U.S. that argued that if Pakistan could establish its writ in North Waziristan, expel foreigners and Afghan Taliban from there, no drones would be needed. Pakistan is unable and unwilling to do that. Pakistan wanted to get Dr. Afia Siddiqui released out of American prison and the U.S. wanted Dr. Shakeel Afridi be allowed to leave Pakistan. These wishes of two countries could not materialize under the present circumstances.

  The U.S. wanted strict punitive action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa which was viewed as the political wing of Lashkkar-i-Tayyaba. Pakistan’s government was not politically in a position to take any strict action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The U.S. also wanted a quick disposal of the court cases of those under trial since 2009 in Pakistan for their involvement in the Mumbai attack in November 2008. Pakistan could not give any commitment on this.

 The U.S. wants Pakistan’s civilian government and the military to take non-discriminatory action against all militant groups that engage in violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan or India. Pakistan did not give any commitment on this and has continued with the dual policy of taking action against some militant groups and tolerating others or allowing them to function.

 If the U.S. did not accept Pakistan’s demands completely, Pakistan was also unable to accept some of U.S. demands for taking specific actions for countering terrorism. These differences have created mutual distrust between Pakistan and the U.S.

 Despite the differences outlined above, Pakistan and the United States would continue to cooperate with each other in economic and social development sectors and military-to-military relations. They are expected to continue with the dialogue on the issues in dispute. Convergence and divergence will exist at the same time in the relations between Pakistan and the U.S. 

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