Asia Program

Salvaging a Troubled Marriage: Lessons for U.S.-Pakistan Relations

By
Michael Kugelman

The new U.S. administration has inherited the challenge of a U.S.-Pakistan relationship in crisis. This policy brief argues that although strategic partnership may be impractical, sustained ties remain essential. Therefore, the White House should frame U.S.-Pakistan relations as a scaled-back but long-term relationship meant to persevere after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. In refashioning U.S.-Pakistan policy, policymakers should bear in mind three important lessons. First, neither side exerts much influence over the other; second, limited opportunities for cooperation with official Pakistan should be seized; and third, coercive diplomacy has little utility. Instead, the United States should engage Pakistan’s private sector and young, urban middle class—both of which will play a key role in that country’s long-term future.

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