(MENAFN - ValueWalk)
US-Pakistan relations are said to be getting better after an 'ice-breaker' meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Until Tuesday, when the two met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, in US-Pakistan relations had kept deepening at stratospheric speed following U.S. President Donald Trump's policy statement on Afghanistan and South Asia.
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump & Mike Pence) , As part of his Afghan strategy, unveiled a month ago, Trump made it clear that Pakistan had to 'do more' in the fight against terrorism and warned the South Asian nation had 'much to lose' by continuing to harbor militants on its soil.
Trump's criticism prompted an immediate response in Islamabad, with Pakistani officials threatening they would sever ties with Washington and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif going on a in an apparent attempt to discuss forming a united front to oppose America's Afghan policy.
On Tuesday, PM Abbasi and VP Pence met to confront the elephant in the room and sort out differences plaguing the decades-old partnership between Pakistan and U.S.
Are US-Pakistan relations actually getting better?
While there has been no immediate effect of US-Pakistan talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua, who briefed Pakistani media about the meeting, called the meeting between PM Abbasi and VP Pence 'ice-breaker.'
The two sides are said to have vowed to remain engaged and carry forward the diplomatic relationship between Washington and Islamabad. The meeting comes as dozens of reports circulating in the media suggest that President Trump is considering to designate Pakistan a terrorist state, something that would further aggravate tensions between the two former allies.
During the meeting, PM Abbasi informed VP Pence about decisions taken by Pakistan's National Security Committee. The two sides are also said to have agreed to continue dialogue over the Afghanistan issue. In fact, Mrs. Janjua told the media that PM Abbasi and VP Pence agreed that a U.S. delegation will visit Pakistan next month to continue negotiations.
What did Abbasi and Pence talk about?
VP Pence said the Trump administration 'look forward to exploring ways so that we can work even more closely' with Pakistan and the Abbasi government to 'advance security throughout the region.' The Vice President stopped short of echoing President Trump's harsh remarks about Pakistan's insufficient contribution to the war on terror in the region.
PM Abbasi reiterated that his country has made huge sacrifices in this war and added that Pakistan would continue cooperating with the U.S. to eliminate terrorism and bolster up regional security.
'We have made our contributions, we fought a very difficult war, we suffered casualties and have suffered economic losses and that is the message that we bring to the world,' VP Pence, as reported by DAWN. He added, 'We are partners in the war against terrorism.'
Islamabad met Trump's remarks with strong criticism, lashing out at Washington for failing to acknowledge Pakistan's sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, which has claimed the lives of nearly 22,000 Pakistani civilians and over 6,800 Pakistan's soldiers since 2003.
Pakistan-US relations could barrel toward a new all-time low
As US-Pakistan relations are standing at a turning point following the Pence-Abbasi meeting, experts predict ties between the two nations could reach its new all-time low.
The Pakistani government is preparing a ' in the wake of Trump's Afghan strategy, according to federal sources cited by The Tribune over the weekend.
In the extreme case scenario as part of the 'toughest diplomatic policy,' Islamabad would cut access for U.S. and NATO military supplies to war-torn Afghanistan. Pakistan resorted to the same measure in the past when it to Afghan soil after US-led NATO forces killed 28 Pakistani soldiers in a 2011 airstrike.
Before implementing the 'extreme' option, the Pakistani government is said to be considering limiting diplomatic relations with Washington and reducing bilateral cooperation on security and terrorism issues. Islamabad has also warned it would hit the brakes on talks to buy more F-16 supersonic multirole fighter aircraft from the U.S. and would instead seek , its all-weather friend.
What does US have up its sleeve against Pakistan?
Washington is believed to have even more countermeasures against Islamabad up its sleeve. In fact, just days after Trump unveiled the Afghan strategy last month, state regulators threatened to ban operations in the U.S. of Habib Bank, which is majority-owned by the Pakistani government, for regulatory violations. The threats prompted Habib Bank to in the U.S.
But the not-so-subtle financial pressure on Habib Bank appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. Washington is also said to be considering to strip Pakistan of its status of a non-NATO ally, which offers a variety of military and financial advantages.
Among other strict measures against Pakistan for failing to 'do more' in the fight on terror are cutting off all aid, imposing a travel ban and even declaring Pakistan a terrorist state.
While the measures are expected to put a significant strain on US-Pakistan relations, a new report by a leading British defense think-tank warned that than Islamabad needs Washington.
The Royal United Studies Institute (RUSI) noted in its Sept. 4 report that the ever-increasing partnership between China and Pakistan has helped the latter gain confidence and 'has eclipsed anything America has had to offer in terms of military and economic assistance.'
Pakistan falling into the arms of China, Russia and Turkey
Multiple experts have warned that Washington's criticism toward Islamabad would push the nuclear-armed nation deeper into the arms of its all-weather ally China and even Russia, with whom Pakistan has enjoyed warm ties lately. In fact, Beijing and Moscow were among the first ones to rush to Pakistan's rescue and to Afghanistan and South Asia policy.
As part of his tour around Eurasia, Pakistan's FM Asif visited Turkey, which has long been allied to Pakistan, China and Russia. The meeting between Asif and high-profile Turkish officials have triggered a theory that Ankara, Islamabad, Beijing and Moscow could be planning to .
In fact, before his meeting with VP Pence, Pakistan's PM Abbasi met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
While the meeting has further fueled the China-Russia-Turkey-Pakistan bloc theory, the two leaders reiterated their commitment to enhance bilateral economic cooperation and finalize the Free Trade Agreement.
Mr. Erdogan and PM Abbasi reached a unanimous conclusion that there is no military solution to the Afghanistan issue and emphasized on the importance of finding a political solution to the Afghan crisis to achieve peace and stability in the region.
It's unclear at this points if Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia have discussed a viable plan to form a united front to oppose Trump's Afghan strategy, which includes deploying more U.S. troops to the war-torn nation, but the increased frequency of diplomatic contacts between the four nation signal that the China-Russia-Turkey-Pakistan bloc might be in the cards.