Islamabad-Senator Sehar Kamran on Wednesday emphasised the need to reviewing Pakistan’s ‘often-confused’ policies towards the United States and developing a singular coherent path for the country’s future relations with the Trump Administration.

She was addressing at a roundtable conference, “Pakistan-US Relations: A Way Forward”, organised by Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies and held at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services.

Speakers at the event included Dr Kamran Bokhari, senior analyst, and Muddassar Ahmed, from a communication company. The discussion revolved around contemporary developments in 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 described Pakistan-US relations as the one spanning years of cooperation and decades of misunderstandings. She said that despite extensive cooperation between the two countries in the past, over the last few years, however; the bilateral relationship had been characterised by policy fluctuations and increasing hostility.

The Senator stated that it was regrettable that Pakistan’s sacrifices and contributions were being undermined by the current US administration through colourful language, contradictory statements and inflammatory tweets which looked to have become hallmark of the present US administration’s approach towards Pakistan, which, she said, was 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, had directly impacted Pakistan-US relationship. In this regard, 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 remarked.

She emphasised that it was time for Pakistan to 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 that Pakistan would have to create its own narrative and present its case. He said that both Pakistan and the US needed each other but we have to be mindful of the fact that the current US presidency was unprecedented. Pakistan’s message is being drowned due to the overwhelming echo chamber in Washington but unfortunately not much is being done by Pakistan to counter it, he said.

He stated that if we would not tell our story, no one will. Countries will pursue their own interests, and any roundabouts in this regard should come as no surprise to us, but we must focus on pursuing our own interests in a more effective manner, he elaborated. He also highlighted the importance of understanding the ‘terms of reference’ of relationships and engaging with countries in ways that would secure our interests.

Muddassar Ahmed expanded upon the specific measures that could be taken by Pakistan to enhance space in the West. He emphasised upon the need for shifting the current negative media narrative into a positive one, that re-humanises 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, manoeuvrability 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.