A report published by the Guardian newspaper on Sunday said that US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during her recent visit to the region had frankly defined the new parameters of US-Pakistan relations.
She used a public event in the Indian port city of Mumbai this week to stress that there would be no equivalence with the deepening of the ties of Washington with India.
The Islamabad trip was for “a very specific and narrow purpose”, Sherman said, to talk about Afghanistan and the Taliban.
“We don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan, and we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India-Pakistan,” she added. “That’s not where we are. That’s not where we’re going to be.”
The US official later arrived in Pakistan from India on Thursday, and her two-day agenda focused on Afghanistan and counterterrorism. A planned meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan never materialized during her visit to Islamabad.
Commenting on the visit, Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistani information minister, said that the talks with Sherman had gone well.
“I think she spoke very warmly in Pakistan and she has understood Pakistan’s point of view,” Chaudhry said.
However, the report quoting Senior Pakistan government officials said that there was diplomatic tension between the two countries that needed to be resolved and that Khan was angry that he had still not received a phone call from President Biden.
In that context, the decision not to call is intended to be an unambiguous signal of Washington’s displeasure with Khan’s attitude to Afghanistan, the report says.
The Pakistani prime minister says he has started dialogue with the Taliban over inclusivity. Khan has also described the Taliban takeover as “breaking the chains of slavery”.
According to the report, the US wants Pakistan to maintain international solidarity in withholding recognition of the Taliban.
The cold approach has come as a shock to Islamabad. In a recently leaked memo, the Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, urged the Pakistani embassy in Washington to get a call arranged between Biden and Khan.
“In spite of the existing situation in Afghanistan, and the key role played by Pakistan, it is unfortunate that the White House remains indifferent to the Pakistani leadership,” the letter said, blaming “the immature understanding of the White House staff.”
“You are thus expected to take adequate measures, ensuring that enough diplomatic steps are taken to guarantee the strategic relevance of Pakistan in all diplomatic forums.”
The top Pakistani diplomat has insisted the letter was fake but official sources said it was authentic.
Since the Taliban came to power in mid-August, Pakistan has been publicly talking about the future recognition of the Taliban government.
A recent report published in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said that the United States does not want Pakistan to recognize the Taliban regime before the rest of the international community.
Last week, Khan in an interview said the United States will “sooner or later” have to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Pakistan says it is anxious to get flows of humanitarian aid going across the border and forestall a complete collapse in Afghanistan which would lead to a huge, destabilizing influx of refugees.
Pakistan has been long accused by successive administrations in Washington of playing a double game in the fight against terrorism, on the one hand being a supposed ally in the so-called “war on terror” while also supporting and sponsoring the Taliban, and allowing them to live and regroup on Pakistani soil, a charge Islamabad denies.
The Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August, as the United States was in the middle of a chaotic troop withdrawal from the country.
The previous government of Afghanistan collapsed on August 15 in the face of lightning advances by the Taliban militants. On September 7, the Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government in Afghanistan, where hunger and poverty significantly increased during the past month.
The Taliban on Saturday warned the US against destabilizing the government in Afghanistan, as the two sides held their first face-to-face meeting since the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.
The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 removed the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country.