The new United States ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, on Monday signalled Washington’s intention to move on from the regime change controversy by engaging in a robust two-way communication with the country’s government, political parties and civil society.
Ambassador Blome, who arrived in Pakistan late last month, has taken over the charge of the US mission at a time of unique challenges and opportunities.
Though anti-American sentiments run deep in Pakistani society, the feelings got inflamed after former prime minister Imran Khan alleged that he was ousted through a US conspiracy for regime change and ran a mass campaign calling for ‘freedom’ from ‘slaves of foreign powers’. This heightened anti-American sentiment has, therefore, become the foremost challenge for Washington in executing its foreign policy goals in Pakistan.
Ambassador Blome disclosed that “a number of follow-ups” were being planned on the basis of the agenda set by the two foreign ministers at their meeting.
“I will do some of that here, and I expect we will see a variety of US visitors to Pakistan in the coming months to build on it further,” he said. In what appears to be a step towards the resumption of structured bilateral dialogue that has been suspended for long, the two sides are set to launch the US-Pakistan Health Dialogue in Washington for deepening their cooperation on health issues. The ambassador recalled the “partnership” between the two countries against the global Covid-19 pandemic as a good example of cooperation on health. US had donated more than 61 million Covid vaccine doses, $69m in financial support, and an additional $9m in in-kind assistance to support Pakistan’s fight against the pandemic.
“We can build on this work not just in assistance but through growing private sector partnerships in the health field,” the envoy added. Much like the emphasis on investment and trade during the foreign ministers’ meeting, Ambassador Blome too said that he was “committed to promoting further development of our bilateral trade and investment”.
forward, relations need to be mutually beneficial, and not merely transactional as has been the case over the last several decades. For example, while Mr Blome told this paper that the US seeks a “sustained” partnership with Pakistan on “counterterrorism”; this should not translate to simply using Pakistan as an over-the-horizon staging post to manage Afghanistan. It is in Pakistan’s own interest to fight terrorism and ensure Afghanistan does not become a base for global militancy, but the Pakistan-US relationship needs to be developed along deeper lines. Ideally, ties should prioritise economic, trade, development and people-to-people linkages. Moreover, the world is once more becoming a very polarised place, and developing states like Pakistan are again being asked if they are ‘with us or against us’. Simply put, Pakistan cannot afford to take part in bloc politics, and should pursue a progressive foreign policy of neutrality and friendship with all like-minded states. The Pakistan-US relationship must indeed be rebuilt and deep linkages can be forged in multiple sectors. But the US should not expect Pakistan to follow its orders where maintaining or breaking relations with America’s foes — China, Iran, Russia etc — are concerned.
US had donated more than 61 million Covid vaccine doses, $69m in financial support, and an additional $9m in in-kind assistance to support Pakistan’s fight against the pandemic