Pakistan cannot be a strategic ally of the US as the latter’s interests in South Asia contradict Pakistan’s national interests, defense and security experts said on Monday at a seminar in capital Islamabad organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Pakistan’s relationship with the US is transactional, and Islamabad mistook it as strategic, said Abdul Basit, president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
US interests in South Asia “are totally in contradiction to the national interests of Pakistan,” and “we don’t have any foreign policy to deal with the challenges,” he added.
A lack of convergence of interests, and of economic cooperation, are the major contributing factors to the relationship’s poor history, he said.
“We need to formulate proactive diplomacy and behave as a mature nation instead of just reacting to international developments,” he said. “During the last four years, we have lost our space in US diplomacy.”
Dr. Shireen Mazari, a lawmaker with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and director general of the Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad, said Pakistan miscalculated its relationship with the US.
“Pakistan has been acting against its own interests in the region just to serve the US, and this should come to an end now,” she said.
The rise of India as a regional power, the isolation of Iran and the containment of China are the major US interests in South Asia, she added. “Our national interests did not converge with the interests of the US,” Mazari said, adding that America can never be a natural strategic ally to Pakistan.
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said the relationship remains hostage to fundamental differences. “Pakistan needs to work out some fundamental changes in its foreign policy to normalize relations with the US,” he added.
Pakistan should capitalize on its geostrategic importance and redefine its relationship with the US and India for regional peace and stability, he said.
Hafiz Masroor Ahmed, vice president of the Center for Global and Strategic Studies, said Indian influence in Afghanistan poses a danger to Pakistan.
Islamabad should not be a hostage to US interests in the region, as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban were sabotaged by Washington, he added. “All our institutions should formulate a joint strategy to deal with the US,” he said.
Shakeel Ahmad, director of research uptake and business development at the SDPI, said the Trump administration “has brought a mix of change and continuity in the country’s foreign and security policies, including those in South Asia, and we need to understand that for a better relationship.”