The Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) hosted an in-house meeting with a three member delegation from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), US. Important issues such as Pakistan and US relations, and Pakistan and China relations came under discussion. Daniel F. Runde, Director, Project on prosperity and development at the CSIS, headed the CSIS delegation along with two other colleagues, Mr. Asif Sheikh, Senior Research Associate and Mr. Mr. Amir Raza, Director Asia and Middle East.
The Chairman ISSI, Ambassador (retd) Khalid Mehmood welcomed the guests, while the Director General ISSI Ambassador (retd) Masood Khan opened the discussions by highlighting that Pakistan and the US share strong ties and that they have worked very hard to bring a positive trend to the relationship. The continuation and progress of the strategic dialogue between both the countries is an example of the dedication both countries have towards each other. While commenting on Pakistan China relations, Ambassador (retd) Masood Khan said that the historic visit of President Xi Jinping marks another height of development in Pakistan and China relations; the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) marks a milestone and is in different developmental stages.
While expressing his views, Mr. Daniel F. Runde stated that Pakistan for far too long Pakistan has been seen through a distorted lens in the US. However, it is time that the US realizes the true potential of Pakistan, and its future development. He emphasized that US should look at Pakistan as an individual and independent country with its own personality, rather than through another country or an event. He also, said that Pakistan and the US are capable of developing a mature relationship which should not only deal with the security aspect but also focus on issues like energy, trade, infrastructure and technology.
Mr. Runde also stressed on the fact that the US can learn from China and how it has developed and maintained a strong relationship with Pakistan. Another member of the CSIS delegation, Mr. Asif Sheikh said that there has been an obvious change in Pakistan as it has gained self confidence which has been missing for a long time.
Mr. Runde while responding to questions expressed that the US sees China as a strategic competitor in the region and that the CPEC is more than just an economic corridor for China, it is designed to get China involved in Afghanistan and in the region at large in the foreseeable future.
Responding to other questions, Mr. Runde observed that there is a lot of hope regarding peace in Afghanistan, as a lot of developments are taking place on the ground which gives a positive streak to the peace process. He was of the view that there is a growing environment for new initiatives and investments in Pakistan, and opportunities for social and economic development by the US. He reiterated that the US should change its perceptions towards Pakistan but it will only happen with time and with a successful and active lobbying by the Pakistanis themselves and the Pakistani Diaspora in the US.
Making another observation Mr. Runde said that the biggest challenge Pakistan and the US face is regarding the image that exists of Pakistan in the US and vice versa. He stressed that it is imperative for the US and Pakistan to address this issue collectively and fight this fear. Mr. Asif Sheikh added that the question of image is tied to the lack of knowledge both the countries have about each other.
Director General, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, Ambassador (retd) Masood Khan concluded the discussion by stating that the US needs to be Pakistan’s partner of choice. The US can help Pakistan reconstruct its image and fight the anti Pakistani sentiments and perceptions. He also raised the point that India is not only fixated towards Pakistan but it and its posture towards its neighbours is also aggressive, therefore, the US should make its assessment on facts and realities.
At the end, the Chairman Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, Ambassador (Retd) Khalid Mehmood concluded the discussion by stating that, the US should treat Pakistan and India equally. The US’s need to be sensitive towards certain issues such as the Indo-US Nuclear Deal and its proposal to India as a part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. He also pointed out that the US should be responsive towards Pakistan’s concerns vis-e-vie India. Other concerns raised by the Chairman were issues pertaining to isamaphobia in the US, which should also be handled with care and sensitivity as it reflects upon US’s attitude towards Muslims around the world.