Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan wanted a “civilised relationship” with the United States, post-Afghan drawdown and would like to improve bilateral trade ties.
In an interview with New York Times, the prime minister said that after the US announced the deadline for withdrawal of troops from the war-battered country, Pakistan’s leverage on the Taliban had diminished.
“Pakistan would want a civilised relationship, which you have between nations, and we would like to improve our trading relationship with the US,” Imran told the newspaper. “So a relationship which is even-handed,” he added.
During the war against terrorism, Imran noted, the Pakistan-US relations were “a bit lopsided” because the US felt that they were giving aid to Pakistan, therefore Pakistan had to do US bidding. He added that what Pakistan did at the US bidding, actually cost the country a lot in human lives.
“Seventy thousand Pakistanis died, and over $150 billion were lost to the economy because there were suicide bombings and bombs going on all over the country. That’s where the problem began. The US kept expecting more from Pakistan. And unfortunately, Pakistani governments tried to deliver what they were not capable of.”
In the post-drawdown scenario, Imran opined that Pakistan should have some strategic relevance to the US. “We have one of the biggest markets on one side of Pakistan, and then China on [the] other side. And then the energy corridor, Central Asia, Iran… So Pakistan, in that sense, is strategically placed for the future in terms of economics,” Imran said.
“I don’t know. Post the US withdrawal, I don’t know what sort of military relationship it will be. But right now, the relationship should be based on this common objective that there is a political solution in Afghanistan before the United States leaves,” he added.
When asked how worried was he about a civil war in Afghanistan, Imran replied that Pakistan had been emphasising to the Taliban that they should not go for a military victory because if they go for an all-out military victory, it would mean a protracted civil war.
“And the country that would be affected by a civil war, after Afghanistan, would be Pakistan. We would be affected because there are more Pashtuns in Pakistan than in Afghanistan,” he said. “This will have two effects” he added. “One, another influx of refugees into Pakistan and secondly, our vision for the future is lifting our economy and trading through Afghanistan into Central Asia [will be disrupted].”
He also said: “Let me assure you, we will do everything except the use of military action against the Taliban. I mean, we will do everything up to that. All sections of our society have decided that Pakistan will take no military action.”
Imran said that he met President Ashraf Ghani earlier this year and gave full support to the Afghan government. “Pakistan will only recognise a government which is chosen by the people of Afghanistan, whichever government they choose.”
Ties with India
Imran said that he approached India Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately after assuming the premiership but “[his offer] didn’t get anywhere”. He added: “Had there been another Indian leadership, I think we would have had a good relationship with them.”
When asked about the growing relations between the US and India, Imran that countries should have relations with everyone. “Why do we have to choose sides — either it’s the US or China? I think we should have a relationship with everyone,” he added.
“I do not see why the US should think that India is going to be this bulwark against China. If India takes on this role, I think it would be detrimental for India because India’s trade with China is going to be beneficial for both India and China.”