A question that continues to intrigue the Pakistani population even after seven decades of its existence is “Will U.S.-Pakistan relations ever reach the pinnacle of genuine and commendable amity?” The question is indeed central to Pakistan’s interests. It must, therefore, be knowledgeably answered if sustainable and meaningful relations are to be established between the United States of America and Pakistan. The history of U.S.-Pakistan relations is replete with ignominious episodes of highs and lows. It is clear that the U.S. has occasionally supported Pakistan, monetarily or otherwise, during this period because it was in their strategic interest to do so. Pakistan it seems has never been as strategically important to the US as India, who has always been supported by the U.S. both for strategic as well as economic reasons. India has always been and will continue to be strategically significant for the U.S. The major reason behind this is the US’s desire to see India challenge China’s growing influence in the region. How could the US ever let China endanger its status as a super power? Naturally, therefore, a militarily and economically robust India serves the strategic interests of the US better than Pakistan or for that matter any other country in the region. There are umpteen instances that could be highlighted to prove the arguments regarding US-Pakistan relations cited above. However, an instance that perfectly fits into our narrative is the ‘Soviet-Afghan War’ that lasted for over nine years between December 1979 and February 1989. At this time, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia joined the US to back some insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahedeen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, to fight a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside. This, in fact, made it a Cold War proxy war. As reported in the national and international media, between 562,000 and 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran. In this love-hate relationship, attempts to establish cordial ties and periods of economic and military assistance and cooperation have been interspersed with phases characterised by ‘friction and mutual distrust’. A research paper jointly penned by Lubna Sunawar and Tatiana Coutto, and published in The Journal of International Relations and Development Studies (a publication by Arcadia University and the American Graduate School in Paris) cogently states that the role of the U.S in Pakistan’s foreign policy throughout the Cold War cannot be understated. The paper describes the Pakistan-U.S relations as ‘a tale of exaggerated expectations, broken promises and disastrous misunderstandings’. The paper further states that in this love-hate relationship, attempts to establish cordial ties and periods of economic and military assistance and cooperation have been interspersed with phases characterized by ‘friction and mutual distrust’. Even today, for obvious reasons, the U.S. doesn’t seem to be too keen to alter its interest-based relations with Pakistan to genuine and commendable amity. The two recent palpable measures taken by the U.S. (a) suspension of U.S. military training programs for Pakistani officers (valued at approximately $2.41 million) and (b) cancellation of $300 million in U.S. aid to Pakistan profoundly endorses this view. As always, through such castigatory measures the United States of America is perpetually engaged in coercing Pakistan to bend its knees and to follow its diktats without question. Pakistan has suffered inestimably by being an ally of the U.S. in the Soviet-Afghan War and the war against terrorism. As reported in the national and international media, by the end of 2001, there were over four million Afghans in Pakistan. Even though many returned to their homes in 2002, according to a UNHCR report from February 2017, about 1.3 million registered Afghan citizens still remain in Pakistan. Pakistan has paid heavily for being an ally of the U.S. in the ongoing war against terrorism in Afghanistan, and has suffered colossally both in monetary terms and loss of innocent human lives. However, for all the sacrifices that Pakistan has made over all these past decades, they have gained nothing in return. What then does the brief history of U.S-Pakistan relations enunciated above reveal? It lucidly divulges that Pakistan has never been and it never will be in the roster of “Strategic Partners” of the U.S. Pakistan has always been exploited by the U.S., to its advantage, time and again. It would be prepared to do so, yet again, whenever the need arises. Should and could, therefore, the U.S. be blamed for its prejudiced and dogmatic stance against Pakistan? I don’t think so. Why? Because, as stated earlier, Pakistan is not of strategic importance to the U.S. but India is, for obvious reasons. For all that Pakistan has done and continues to do, it is being persistently asked by the U.S. to do more. Not only this, Pakistan is also being blamed for being a ‘safe haven’ for terrorists and supporting some terrorist groups; a charge that Pakistan continues to deny. But the U.S. is not ready to accept Pakistan’s denial; they simply so not trust them. What should then Pakistan do in this unfortunate ambience of distrust? It should take tangible measures to prove to the U.S. that its assertions are erroneous and based on delusion. This can be done by taking action against all extremist groups allegedly operating from Pakistan’s soil, and wiping all terrorist ‘safe havens’. On the other hand, Pakistan should urgently revisit its foreign policy. It should seriously consider building new relationships, as well as further bolster its existing relationship with nations with which it has always had a strong and mutually beneficial alliance. Pakistan must make indefatigable endeavours to further strengthen its relations with its time-tested, all-weather friend China, and also with other friendly and altruistic countries of the region and the Islamic world, particularly Saudi Arabia. More importantly, Pakistan must make concerted efforts to augment its relations with Russia, who seem to be open to improving relations as well. This indeed doesn’t mean that Pakistan should rebuff the U.S. As a matter of fact, it cannot afford to do so. It is a stark reality that the United States of America is a super power, and Pakistan certainly is not oblivious of this palpable fact either. It would, therefore, be in the supreme interest of Pakistan to make efforts to maintain cordial relations with the U.S. without, of course, compromising its dignity. The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad Published in Daily Times, September 20th 2018.