Pak-U.S. Relations: Time to Reset?

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By most counts, the recent official visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the United States (21-23 July 2019) is a great success. For the past three years, Pakistan’s relationship with the United States, the pre-eminent power of the world, was in doldrums. There was a desire on both sides, so it seems, to avoid a complete rupture. After all, Pakistan and the U.S. have enjoyed sustained periods of engagement, albeit interrupted by spells of estrangement. The vibes from the Prime Minister’s meetings with the U.S. President and other American leadership in Washington are mostly positive. The military leadership accompanying the Prime Minister further reinforced our messaging. The Pakistani-American diaspora also came out in large numbers to welcome the Prime Minister. Is the relationship, then, on course for a reset? Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi certainly seems convinced that “a foundation” for this has been built.

So far so good, but some key questions remain. How would it actually pan out? Will the U.S. restart the broad-based relationship that Pakistan desires? Or will this be a temporary phase limited to cooperation in securing U.S. exit from and peace in Afghanistan? How will the upturn in U.S. relations with Pakistan go down with the former’s relations with India, and how will Pakistan’s relations with China be impacted by the reset, if and when it happens? These and many other questions would consume debates in the weeks ahead, but it is important to first understand the global and regional context in which the visit took place.

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