WLD 210124 Moeed Yusug pak-1611498386666
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Moeed Yusug. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan looks forward to build a “truly bilateral relationship” based on mutual understanding and a new economic partnership with the United States under Joe Biden’s administration. Pakistan and the US relationship has a real opportunity for a fresh start, said Dr Moeed Yusuf, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on National Security and Strategic Policy Planning. “Pakistan-US relationship has to be candid, honest and realistic on what we can achieve” and Pakistan is “100 per cent open to improving the relationship, moving forward on a new agenda.”

Look beyond Afghan prism

“Pakistan was unfortunately seen through Afghan prism” and to begin the dialogue from the 2016 era will lead to “same old conversation and same old problems” as the region and Pakistan have transformed immensely in the last four years, he said. While Dr Mooed agreed that Afghanistan will remain a key concern for the Biden administration, but he said the dialogue between two countries has to move beyond Afghanistan as the peace process has been reached and “previous US administration acknowledged Pakistan’s role [in Afghan peace talks] and the fact that it would not have happened without Pakistan.”

Afghanistan is a common agenda but “it would be tragic if that’s the only conversation we’re having” Dr Mooed Yusuf said during a talk focused on ‘US-Pakistan relations in the Biden era’ organized by the Washington-based think tank Wilson Centre.

Economic bases, not military bases

Dr Mooed reminded the Washington policymakers that they would now be engaging with a “very different Pakistan” that has changed a lot since 2016 with the improved security situation and emphasise on economic benefits. Pakistan is now focused on “economic security paradigm” under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directions and is determined to become “geo-economic melting pot” to improve national and regional development and connectivity, he said. Pakistan is keen to offer the world power “economic bases, not military bases” which is an entirely different approach than in the past.

Economic partnership not assistance

Pakistan’s national security adviser said that the country’s new vision is to prioritise connectivity and “development partnerships, not assistance.” The first thing Pakistan wants to discuss with the US officials is “investment partnerships”. Noting that the conversation about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is not always positive in Washington, he encouraged the US and Western multinational companies to invest in Pakistan which remained a lucrative market for foreign companies even during the tough years of 2007-2017.

“How about the US reprocessing zones and industrial cooperation? And the reconstruction opportunity zones brought up during the Obama administration? How about Pakistan-US-China co-investment?” he suggested, inviting the new US administration to explore an economic partnership with Pakistan.

Cooperation on priority areas

Instead of beginning with the difficult issues, the two countries can initiate dialogue on shared interests and priority sectors such as IT, energy, agriculture, climate change and health. But he said that Pakistan is ready to discuss the challenging issues as well such as Pakistan’s concerns with India. He hoped that the two sides would immediately begin a structured high-level dialogue to improve the ties.

US and China

During the discussion, Pakistan’s NSA also reminded the US policymakers that “Pakistan is one of the very few countries that can play a helping role for the US and China on areas where they do converge and want to work together.”