Mushahid hopeful Pak-US relations will get better

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ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Mushahid Hussain Syed has said that there is a ‘glimmer of hope’ in relations between Pakistan and the United States (US) and with cautious optimism on both sides, things will get better.

“With uncertainties removed from both sides, Pakistan-US relations can continue to grow better,” the senator said during a public hearing held by Senate standing committee on foreign affairs on ‘Pakistan-American Relations: After Foreign Minister’s Washington Visit’ here at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Studies (PIPS).

The session was attended by a packed audience from the diplomatic community, civil and military experts, parliamentarians, academia, students and journalists.

Mushahid said that regional connectivity via CPEC can promote regional cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Former ambassador to the United States and former foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, while addressing the participants, observed that at this unpredictable juncture of US-Pakistan relations, building trust was very significant for re-engagement between both sides. He said that the US needs to appreciate and understand the legitimate security concerns of Pakistan vis-a-vis India and Afghanistan, and measures for retaining goodwill are needed.

He also said that resettlement of US-China relations is of key importance to the stability of the region for which Pakistan will continue to play its role.

Jilani said that the recent interactions between the US and Pakistan were on a positive line and Washington now understood that some areas of its earlier policy towards Asia were not workable.

Moeed Yusuf, vice president of US Institute of Peace at Washington DC, remarked that presently, Pakistan and the US do not enjoy a bilateral relationship independent of Afghanistan. He said that in order to make Pakistan-US relations better, there was a need to dispel the negative perception in the US that always sees Pakistan as part of the problem and not the solution.

However, he acknowledged that the presence of a full-time foreign minister who is well-known in the US has been taken positively, and the recent visits on both sides have helped the cause well. He observed that there is a glimmer of hope in stabilising the relationship and both sides need to understand that they have no other options but to work together.

He proposed having focused conversations, deliberating upon a common vision, and utilising Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace process.

Senator Sherry Rehman, who has also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, and Dr Rasool Bakhsh Raees, a professor of political science, also addressed the public hearing.

Senator Sherry Rehman said that both the US and Pakistan need to make their rationales clear. She said that Pakistan has always sought to be seen as a serious and useful interlocutor for the peace process in Afghanistan and it is high time that the US understands this. Dr Rasool Bakhsh Raees observed that the stalemate in the relationship has something to do with Islamabad and something to do with the US.

The addresses were followed by an interactive question-answer session wherein student participants from the civil and military background and students from Quaid-e-Azam University, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) and Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) put forward questions to the panellists regarding the US-Pakistan Relationship and the way forward for diplomacy.

The hearing was attended among others by ambassadors of France and European Union, Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood, Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani, Irashadullah Khan, Dr Ashfaq Hasan Khan, and senators Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qayyum, Dr Mehr Taj, Asif Kirmani, Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, Anwarul Haq Kakar, Javed Abbasi, Sitara Ayaz, Attaur Rehman, Dr Shahzad Waseem, Dr Ghous Niazi and DrShaheen  Butt.