Islamabad, 17th January, 2018: The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) organised a roundtable conference on “Pakistan-US Relations: A Way Forward” held at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services on 17thJanuary, 2018. Speakers at the event included Dr Kamran Bokhari, Senior Analyst with Geopolitical Futures, and Mr Muddassar Ahmed, Unitas Communication.

The discussion revolved around the contemporary developments in the Pakistan-US relations under the US President Trump in the past year or so. Topics such as peace in Afghanistan, Indo-US nexus, and regional peace were highlighted along with a focus on the future and way forward for the Pakistan-US relations.

In her opening remarks, Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) described Pakistan-US relations as one spanning years of cooperation and decades of misunderstandings. She said, despite of the extensive cooperation between the two countries in the past, over the last few years, however, the bilateral relationship has been characterized by policy fluctuations, and increasing hostility. She stated that it is regrettable that all of Pakistan’s sacrifices and contributions are being actively undermined by the current US administration through colorful language, contradictory statements and inflammatory tweets which seems to have become the hallmark of this administration’s approach towards Pakistan which is extremely worrisome.

With the swearing-in of President Trump and the two important policy announcements made by his administration, the US South Asia Policy, and the National Security Strategy of 2017, have directly impacted the Pakistan-US relationship. In this regard, she remarked it seems as if this gulf in the relationship between the two countries has not only widened further but they also depict Trump’s dense understanding, and ignorance of the ground realities within the Af-Pak region, especially at a time when political and security uncertainty is at its peak in Afghanistan.

She emphasized that it is time for Pakistan to come together and review its often confused policies towards the US, and develop a singular coherent path for the country’s future relations with the Trump Administration. It is in our interest to have a positive relationship while understanding the nuances of the chequered history between the two countries, and seek to address underlying issues, with a commitment towards resolving them, she added.

Dr Kamran Bokhari in his remarks said there are voices willing to listen in Washington, but Pakistan will have to create its own narrative and present its case. He opined that both Pakistan and the US need each other but we have to mindful of the fact that the current US Presidency is unprecedented. Pakistan’s message is being drowned due to the overwhelming echo chamber in Washington but unfortunately not much is being done to counter it by Pakistan. He stated that if we do not tell our story, no one will. Countries will always pursue their own interests, and any round-abouts in this regard should come as no surprise to Pakistan, which must focus on pursuing its own interests in a more effective manner. He also highlighted the importance of understanding the ‘Terms of Reference’ of relationships, and engaging with countries in ways that would secure our interests.

Mr Muddassar Ahmed expanded upon the specific measures that could be taken by Pakistan to enhance space in the West. He emphasized upon the need for shifting the current negative media narrative into a positive one, that re-humanizes the community, taking away some of their ‘otherness’ and creating bonds and support at the root level in western societies. He argued that without such support, maneuverability of politicians would remain limited. In this context, he stated the need for training individuals and significantly enhancing the scale of the media projection about the country in the West, as a way forward for Pakistan.

The roundtable was attended by experts, government officials, academicians and the members of the civil society.

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