More than wriggling out of the FATF grey list or receiving a positive review of the GSP+ status, Pakistan needed the IMF’s understanding on running the economy. Clearly, the alarmingly depleting forex and sky-rocketing inflation are the immediate concerns. Has Islamabad received a nod from the IMF? If the West had decided to forgive Pakistan, the US, EU, KSA and UAE would have come to rescue America’s major non-NATO ally a long time ago. They did not. The answer as to ‘why they did not’ lies in understanding the contours of present-day realpolitik.

The arrival of the US Ambassador in Islamabad followed by a photo session of Pakistan’s Ambassador with President Biden or a contact at the Foreign Ministers level have naively been construed in Islamabad as important developments. Visualising a new era of bilateral relations, a few optimists in the Foreign Office are anticipating more positive gestures from the West as the ‘defiance’ mode has quietly turned into ‘appeasement’ and the bull in the china shop has been shown the door. Before you start connecting the dots or worse, commence celebrating these routine developments, a few questions need to be addressed.

Has Washington forgotten about the sudden increase in anti-US sentiments in Pakistan, following the alleged ‘conspiracy’ hatched against the PTI’s recently ousted government? Has the White House forgiven Pakistan for not attending the Summit of Democracies or the former PM’s visit to Moscow the day the war in Ukraine started? Has the West led by the US forgotten about the ouster of Ashraf Ghani and the coming to power of the Taliban? Is CPEC dismantled and has Pakistan provided assurances to the West of distancing itself from China? Has Pakistan decided to follow the Western way on its nuclear programme?

The answer to all these and other such questions is a big no. As in the case of Iran, even if the Biden administration is maintaining an ‘indirect contact’ with Islamabad to discuss matters of mutual interest, it is highly unlikely that the ‘sins’ have transformed into ‘virtues’ without paying the intended price. The world has experienced it and Pakistan knows full well that the US keeps even its close allies under pressure so as to stay the course and continue following its carefully crafted strategies for running global affairs. On the other hand, it is a proven fact that defiance is never liked by a superior force as it challenges its authority. Unless you have the capacity to inflict harm or render timely assistance, it is advisable you stay within the limits set by the present world order. If not, the UN, IMF, World Bank, FATF or the superpower’s allies would continue pestering you.

After maintaining an unnecessary defiant posture for over a year, Pakistan seems to have learned the oft-repeated lesson. Under the circumstances, the road to normalising relations with the US goes through cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts, border security issues and intelligence sharing. Meanwhile, the expectation is to persevere in the absence of any proof of any ‘conspiracy’ against the recent regime change in Pakistan.

Besides re-learning certain old lessons, Islamabad may reflect on a few other facts as well:

- You need blessings from the powerful, even to put your own ‘house in order’.

- Foreign policy is not run by emotionally charged speeches. The real honour lies in setting the economic sails on course. Secondly, there is no such thing as an ‘independent foreign policy’, as interests of countries are intriguingly interlinked with each other.

- True, Pakistan is safe and secure because of its armed forces. But a strong army is not directly proportionate to the welfare of society. These are two diametrically opposite spheres. Similarly, being an atomic power does not necessarily make you an economic giant. Deterrents are used to avoid wars. Not to increase your GDP growth.

- Unless the South China Sea rigmarole is settled or the world’s energy-related battles take a reasonably positive turn, pro-China postures would mean anti-West designs. Hence, one needs to tread the China-friendship path extremely carefully. No harm in calculating the risk factors. CPEC can continue without defying the West. No need to be more loyal than the king. Even China would wish Pakistan to have cordial relations with all.

- An enemy’s friend is an enemy. Future contacts with Moscow need to be envisaged by taking the stakeholders on board. That does not mean towing the West’s line on the Ukraine crisis.

- India serves the US purpose in the region better than Pakistan as the West wants to contain China and China’s enemy for them is a friend. Therefore, instead of lamenting the world’s indifference to India’s wrong-doings, the entire South Asian geostrategic climate needs to be understood from the West’s perspective. A few opportunities await Pakistan in that analysis.

- Kashmiri people’s inalienable right to self-determination must not be overshadowed by focusing only on the human rights violations in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K).

- The Taliban’s cooperation or otherwise in dealing with the TTP or not listening to Pakistani logic in other areas must be taken seriously. Pakistan is facing an existential threat itself. Better to save your own soul first before embarking upon the rosy journey of saving others. Let Afghanistan live its own life by using its own devices.

Realisation is the first step followed by envisioning a doable plan of action. Everyone knows that internal political stability in a country is a prerequisite to having economic constancy. As against the ‘selected’ or ‘imported’, let the people have a ‘real’ government of their choice. Let the ‘true’ democratic process start and take its usual course for a considerable period of time. Contrarily, the prevailing uncertainty might very well lead the country to a point of no return.