On Monday, the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bajwa met with US Central Command (CENTCOM) Chief General Joseph Votel at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, and the press releases suggest that this was a useful meeting. Such is the customary state of affairs that each new regime, military or civilian, gets the opportunity to reset relations with foreign powers by setting aside past differences to focus on the positive elements of diplomacy. The COAS seems to be heading in the right direction here by revitalising an oft-ignored relationship with the US and trying to do the same with Afghanistan too.

A lot has changed since the US was a firm presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan was on the front line of the “war against terror”. Since the US drawback, the axis of diplomatic alliances has shifted; US has moved closer to India, militarily and economically, while Pakistan has doubled down on its partnership with China and explored avenues of cooperation with Russia. Coupled with a sometimes hostile US congress, the Pakistan-US relationship, once a vital pairing, has lost its primacy to both parties.

However, it would be foolish to ignore it all together, and General Bajwa, accompanied by several government officials, expressed the same, saying that US support has been critical for the efforts against the menace of terrorism and violent extremism and that they hoped that such cooperation would continue in the future. While not exactly surprising, it is rare for the government to acknowledge the role that the US has played and continues to play in combating terrorism. Most media outlets, politicians, and officials paint the US as an enemy – especially since it started favouring India at the expense of Pakistan in matters such as the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) membership and arms deals.

However, it is undeniable that the support of the US is still needed in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan, and it is hoped that the meeting with General Votel – who reciprocated Pakistan’s role and sacrifices in the battle against terrorism – could produce positive results. Foremost of these would be to put an end to the vicious cycle that is the blame game between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and to an extent, India. As long as this tit-for-tat continues, it would be impossible for the regional countries to cooperate.

General Bajwa has prioritised a good relationship with Afghanistan – as he should – and a good relationship with the US is necessary for that to happen.