Terms of Engagement

Has the US, under President Joe Biden, revisited its terms of engagement with Pakistan? The answer to this question is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

By Dr. Farah Naz | November 2023

Pakistan and the US celebrated 75 years of friendship last year, showing their depth and longevity despite ups and downs. Pakistan and the US share universal values of democracy, the rule of law, and upholding human rights. Since 2001, the U.S. policy has been aimed at encouraging the development of a more stable, democratic, and prosperous Pakistan that actively combats militancy and works together with the U.S. to eradicate terrorism from its land.

Since then, Pakistan has partnered with the U.S. in the War on Terror. However, this alliance cost Pakistan immensely due to formidable financial and human losses, reflecting the country’s firm resolve against terrorism. Besides Pakistan, no country has sacrificed so much in fighting terrorism, which is still taking place in some parts of the country, notably Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (PK).

Both states are actively engaged in eradicating militancy to establish a safe and secure region, but Pakistanis are getting targeted one way or the other. As seen from the angles of diplomacy and foreign policy, it is speculated that a change in leadership can affect the relationship between the two states, a reality which raises a thought-provoking question: Has the US, under President Joe Biden, revisited its terms of engagement with Pakistan? The answer to this question is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

Historically speaking, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Pakistan in 1959, President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1967, President Richard Milhous Nixon in 1969, President Bill Clinton in 2000, and President George W. Bush in 2006. Since then, not a single US President has visited Pakistan. On the other hand, from Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to Prime Minister Imran Khan, almost every head of the state and prime minister of Pakistan paid a visit to the U.S., which shows Islamabad’s strong commitment to its bilateral relations with the U.S. Fighting Jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan to acting as a non-NATO of the U.S. in its War on Terror, for decades Pakistan stood firmly with the U.S. at the cost of its people, peace and prosperity.

Since the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan, there has been some uncertainty and disquiet about the relevance and nature of the Pakistan-U.S. relationship. According to Ambassador Masood Khan, diplomacy has brought our engagement to an even keel, thus leading to public pronouncements by the leadership of the two countries that Pakistan-U.S. relations have been de-hyphenated. That means Pakistan-U.S. relations cannot be seen from the prism of Afghanistan and India. We have been assured that even China would not be a new hyphen. This seems to be a new prism in decades of Pakistan-U.S. relations, but will it be sustained considering the evolving geo-political and geo-economic situation?

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