US assistant secy arrives to discuss anti-narco steps

ISLAMABAD – US Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Todd D. Robinson arrived in Pakistan yesterday on a four-day official visit to discuss international law enforcement and counternarcotics initiatives amid improving ties between Pakistan and the US.

While in Pakistan from June 29 -July 2, Assistant Secretary Robinson will meet with senior government officials to discuss US-Pakistan cooperation on various topics, including counternarcotics, gender issues, transnational crime, and border security, the US embassy said. Assistant Secretary Robinson looks forward to celebrating the 75th anniversary of bilateral relations between the United States and Pakistan, and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL)’s 40-year partnership with Pakistan under the theme of‘justice, security, and prosperity,’ it added.

This week, Pakistani Ambassador to the US Masood Khan, while addressing 80 international students at prestigious Johns Hopkins University   said that US and Pakistan are conducting a structured dialogue to promote their ties in pharmaceutical, diagnostics, commercial cooperation, public-private dialogue to enhance bilateral trade and investment in the healthcare sector and cooperation in combating pandemics. Pakistan-US ties had worsened after former prime minister Imran Khan alleged his removal,  following a US-sponsored plot to punish him for pursuing an independent foreign policy with China and Russia—an allegation for which he has yet to provide any evidence.

Khan’s decision to drag foreign policy into his domestic political campaign and use it as a tool for his political survival has exacerbated the already strained relationship between the United States and Pakistan. Given these realities, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will have much work to do to repair Pakistan-US relations. The US’s desire to cultivate good ties with the new Pakistani government while also urging them to use its leverage with the Taliban to fulfil the international community’s demands makes it evident that the scope of bilateral relations is narrow and security-centric.

Despite a new administration in Pakistan, Pakistan-US relations are likely to continue to be security focused on issues such as nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and Afghanistan.

Still, while the scope of the relations is likely to remain narrow, it is in Pakistan’s best interests to move towards a reset in its ties with the United States. The bilateral relationship saw some improvement after the Trump-Khan meeting at the White House in 2019. Afterward, Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating talks between Washington and the Taliban in Qatar, which paved the way for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan through the 2020 Doha Agreement. But, by the end of the year, the relationship plummeted when Pakistan received the cold shoulder from the newly elected Joe Biden administration.

The US’s desire to cultivate good ties with the new Pakistani government while also urging them to use its leverage with the Taliban to fulfil the international community’s demands makes it evident that the scope of bilateral relations is very narrow and security-centric.

The Biden administration’s relationship with Pakistan started to deteriorate immediately after taking office, when Biden did not call Khan, frustrating the prime minister and becoming a source of controversy.

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