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One can plausibly argue that Prime Minister Imran Khan's three-day US visit was successful and need based with the US needing Pakistan's influence to ensure a graceful pullout from Afghanistan and Pakistan's need to be on the right side of America in these times of its severe economic crisis. On personal basis, US President Donald Trump aims to gain political mileage ahead of the 2020 elections while Imran Khan wants to secure his remaining four years in office.

Beyond this narrowed down purpose at both ends there is nothing strategic about the US-Pakistan relationship and has never been so in their over 70 years of relationship, of which 20 years were spent on keeping Communism out of Pakistan and the region and 40 years consumed by US engagement in Afghanistan in which Pakistan has been classified both as 'good guy' and 'bad guy'.

With President Trump's policy of 'America and America alone' and moving America out of its role as a global policeman and the guaranteer of human rights and democracy, the US is not much concerned about the destiny of Afghanistan after it moves out from this landlocked country. As such this appears to be not a subject of much discussions. All of this is understandable and fair enough and it is with this understanding that the two leaders met in Washington DC.

In the process, however, Pakistan's leadership managed to make some valuable gains - the best masterstroke being the global exposure of the unresolved issue of Kashmir in a highly effective and meaningful manner, which prompted Trump to volunteer himself as a mediator. The Kashmir dispute attracted further publicity after India's media started attacking Trump for his remarks. This development may put on hold Modi government's strategy to change the demographics of Kashmir.

Another significant point was his well-prepared narrative through which he told the Trump administration that he abhors aid and underscored the need for building up US-Pakistan relationship based on mutual trust, understanding, reciprocity and equality.

The Prime Minister successfully exposed the malice of corruption in Pakistan. At one of the forums, he argued that corrupt political leaderships in developing countries deprive their people of their welfare and that the corrupt siphon out money and park it in foreign banks and real estate located in vibrant economies of the West - which place them as the main beneficiary of the looted money.

The Transparency International appears biased in its global corruption rankings by placing poor Third World countries as the most corrupt while ignoring the fact that the true beneficiaries of ill-gotten money are largely based in the affluent economies of the West. Majority of tax-free havens is located in the West and legitimized by their respective governments under secrecy act to protect depositor's identity. Only recently, under public pressure, have banks agreed to selectively expose depositors' information but its retrieval mechanism in favour of the affected country remains largely unresolved.

It appears that the US will grant significant trade incentives to Pakistan and help attract some foreign direct investment to this South Asian country. This will, however, be a window of one year or so and not a strategic trade alliance. Pakistan needs to cash in on this opportunity as best and as fast as possible. Equally, the gains it achieved on diplomatic front are required to be protected and preserved.

The euphoria of PM Imran Khan's visit to the US will soon evaporate. Then onwards are the severe challenges on ground to deal with - economy struggling to find ground, mass public protests against the government, high profile accountability and its conclusions.

Rejuvenated by a series of good news emerging out of PM's US visit, the incumbent government is required to take stock of the situation with more prudence. It's time to roll up its sleeves and get the job done. It must not lose sight of the fact that the 'job' constitutes real tough business on ground.

(The writer the former President of Overseas Investors Chamber and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015


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