Necessarily, the new terms of engagement must lead to an enduring strategic partnership, founded upon institutionalised mutual cooperation mechanism to secure regional stability, and a stable and prosperous future for Pakistan. There are many aspects to be considered and defined about the terms of engagement, but only seven are mentioned here that encompass the real issue.
O Sovereign Equality: There must be respect and realisation of Pakistans sovereignty that has been desired since 1960, when President Ayub Khan pleaded for it in his book 'Friends Not Masters. In fact, there are two obsessions that are detrimental to equality in relationship: One is the concept of 'power and pride of a great power, and the other is the 'vast disparity in the civilisational heritage of the two countries. Both are very critical issues of national sensibilities and demand careful consideration.
O Trust Deficit: Although we have been allies for over half a century, yet we have never enjoyed the trust that is needed for a meaningful partnership. There have been many ups and downs in the Pak-US relationship during this period. It remained good so long as the purpose was served. For example, the Pentagon officials now say that we have no choice, but to maintain a strong relationship, since they have realised that Americas exit from Afghanistan without Pakistans support would be a disaster. However, it seems that once it exits from the war-torn, Pakistan would again be abandoned. With such feelings of 'love and hate between the two nations, there is very little hope of establishing an enduring friendship. Both the countries, particularly the US, will have to develop a mechanism to remove the existing trust deficit.
O Hegemony: Pakistanis as a nation do not relish hegemony in any form and shape. It was our own fault that we could not eliminate West Pakistans hegemony over East Pakistan, which preferred to drift away in 1971. Now, America want to establish Indias hegemony over the region, that is, from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka and reduce Pakistan to a client state. But this will never happen because the Pakistani people love freedom as much as the Afghans, who have sacrificed so much to win their independence from the two hegemons - the Soviets and the Americans. Simply follow the Chinese, who do not meddle in the internal affairs of other States, nor do they try to establish military bases around the world seeking primacy and global hegemony.
O Exit from Afghanistan: The occupation of Afghanistan is the mother of all evil. Therefore, USAs exit has to be carried out on three principles. One, it is the winner, the Taliban, who must be allowed to lay down the terms for peace in Afghanistan. Two, the neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan that has suffered the most as a result of the foreign aggression in Afghanistan, must be incorporated to workout the mechanism for transfer of power and its reconstruction. Three, all the countries involved in its invasion should be made to pay for the war damages. The Soviets, Americans and the European Union are the invaders, while India, Pakistan and others are the collaborators, including the United Nations that authorised the invasion. They all have to pay for the crime they have committed.
O Kashmir: The Kashmiris have been deprived of their right of self-determination, and their struggle now has reached a point of decision. It cannot be ignored anymore, as President Barack Obama preferred to do under Indias pressure. It is no more a backburner issue because after the occupation forces exit from Afghanistan, Kashmirs struggle for freedom will heat up and may explode into the Indian face. So, if we fail to find a political solution rapidly, peace in South Asia will remain hostage to Kashmir.
O Nuclear Apartheid Policy: Pakistan has been subjected to a nuclear apartheid policy by the West for no rhythm or reason through the senseless media hype, challenging its ability to provide security to its nuclear assets and contain the threat of Islamic extremists. It is all nonsense and part of the ploy to keep Pakistan under pressure, despite the fact that it has the best record of nuclear safety. There has been no accident, no leakage, and no pilferage of fissile material ever. It is time to come to terms with Pakistans nuclear capability and its policy of minimum nuclear deterrence, which is India-specific.
Indeed, the US and Pakistan need to remove the irritants, which have clouded the once strategic relationship between the two countries. They have to look into the future and develop policies in accordance with the changing trends of the globalised world. The dogmas of the cold war period do not apply anymore. In fact, we have to invent new rules of business for an enduring partnership.
The writer is former chief of army staff, Pakistan.