Washington, May 1 : A policy and communications consultant and the editor of the Pakistan Policy Blog, has said that there is a need for the Bush Administration to redefine its relationship with Pakistan.
According to Arif Rafiq, Democrats in the U.S. Senate forwarded a letter to President George W. Bush this month urging him to "embark on a new relationship with Pakistan based on cooperation with institutions rather than individuals, and to support the will of the Pakistani people as expressed in the February 18 parliamentary elections."
According to the Democrats and Rafiq, what is needed now is to fulfill long-term mutual interests, and if this is not done, it could cause irreparable harm to U.S.-Pakistan ties.
"A sustained bilateral cooperation is in the interest of both countries, and needs to be secured. This requires recasting the U.S.-Pakistan partnership as one between sovereign democracies," says Rafiq, and is quoted by the Washington Post as adding that towards this end, American policymakers need to follow and apply four recommendations:
1) Don't interfere in Pakistan's internal politics. Washington has tried to assemble a coalition government to its liking, excluding Pakistan's second largest party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Such an approach has backfired, rewarding those who are seen as standing up to the United States. If Washington continues to overplay its hand, it could find such parties in power and itself, partner-less in Islamabad.
2) Engage the Pakistani people. The United States should, however, still make its voice heard in Pakistan. U.S. officials visit Pakistan on an almost weekly basis, but rarely speak to the local media. American generals and diplomats appear on the pan-Arab Al Jazeera with regularity, but their Pakistan outreach is scant. There's no excuse for avoiding Pakistan's news outlets, two of which are exclusively English-language (DawnNews and GEO English). Instead of making their case to the Pakistani people, U.S. officials deal with their Pakistani counterparts behind closed doors. As a result, Pakistanis see the United States not as a friend, but a bully. And the good that Washington does in Pakistan, such as providing Fulbright grants and funding civil society groups, goes vastly under-appreciated.
3) Provide a sizable democracy dividend. Pakistan's two previous democratic periods, in the 1970s and 1990s, were met with massive reductions in U.S. aid, facilitating democracy's demise in a perpetually cash-strapped Pakistan. This time around, the United States should maintain military aid and follow Senator Joseph Biden's proposal to triple non-military assistance to 1.5 billion dollars. Although it is deeply impoverished, Pakistan is an emerging market. Yet its recent economic surge has produced few jobs. Washington's help would be most effective in educational and infrastructural development. And it should actively consider a free trade agreement. Pakistan's major industries - agriculture and textiles - are in a state of crisis. Eliminating trade barriers will make Pakistani exports more competitive, spur job growth, and easily win Pakistani hearts.
4) Forge a comprehensive Pakistan-Afghanistan policy. Unilateralism and military force cannot defeat the insurgencies in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But a comprehensive, regional solution can. It would require prying local militants away from al-Qaeda, integrating Pakistani and Afghan insurgents into their respective political systems, and repairing Pakistan-Afghanistan ties.
He concludes by saying that U.S.-Pakistan ties are at a decisive juncture, and that the current and next U.S. administration and Congress have an opportunity to strike a new deal with a pivotal country in a critical region.