'US should also set terms for its ties with Pak'
Washington: The United States should also set terms of its relationship with Pakistan, a leading American expert on South Asian affairs has said, as the country's Parliament begins deliberations on "resetting" the parameters of US-Pakistan relations.
Topping the list of such terms include demanding Pakistan's co-operation in a joint investigation on how Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader, was able to take shelter in Abbottabad for so long and continuation of drone strikes.
"In resetting US-Pakistan relations, the US also needs to put forward some of its own terms for the relationship," Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation said yesterday.
Noting that trust is a two-way street, Curtis said that US leaders have lost faith in Pakistan's credibility as a reliable counterterrorism partner following the discovery of Osama bin Laden in the heart of a Pakistani military cantonment town and its refusal to crack down on the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network bases within its territory.
"Moving forward, the US should also encourage Islamabad to continue opening trade ties to India, and build on the vision of enhanced regional trade to widen constituencies for peace in between the two countries and persevere in coaxing greater Pakistani cooperation with the US strategy in Afghanistan," Curtis said.
The Pakistani Parliament's efforts to reframe the relationship could be helpful in restoring bilateral ties between the two countries, she said. However, Pakistani leaders must appreciate that the US has certain red lines when it comes to fighting terrorism and will insist on action to further degrade the terrorist sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal border areas.
"While there is an opportunity to improve relations, Pakistani officials should not overplay their hand but should recognise that US officials are equally frustrated with the relationship," she said.
The American expert said members of the US Congress continue to be puzzled by the fact that the world's most wanted terrorist could have hidden under the nose of the Pakistani military for so long.
"Even if Pakistani officials were not complicit in hiding bin Laden, they need to track down and prosecute those individuals who were involved in protecting him," she said.
Curtis said that Pakistan-India relations took a major step forward with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's recent announcement that the former will grant India Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status by the end of the year.
"Pakistan's focus on improving economic ties with its neighbours will help contribute to overall stability in the region by enhancing regional integration and boosting overall trade and economic growth. The key to stabilising Afghanistan is to reduce Indo-Pakistani rivalry," she argued.
The US needs to continue its diplomatic efforts to help the two countries resolve tensions in an effort to create a new security paradigm in the region that discourages zero-sum thinking and encourages regional economic integration and cooperation, Curtis added.