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PAK-US RELATIONS: TWIST IN THE TALE

  

Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr Imran Khan had visited the United States of America from 21-24 July 2019. He was accompanied by Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Faiz Hameed and advisor to the Prime Minister for commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood. This is for the first occasion; the two top generals accompanied the Pak PM in the White House.  The Prime Minister did notget state welcome as no US official received him at the Washington airport.  Imran Khan was received by his Foreign Minister, Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi and  the Pak envoy to US, understandably so as this visit was planned and coordinated  through ‘Backdoor Diplomacy’.  On Pakistan’s request, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia organised the visit taking advantage of his equation with Mr Donald Trump’s son- in-law, Mr Jared Kushner. Why this visit? Who benefitted with what?

Pakistan’s desperation for the meeting

Imran Khan was desperately making an effort to break the ice with US ever since his assuming of the ‘highest office’ in Pakistan. The reasons for this desperation were numerous and are waning rapidly on all fronts. With huge debt, pooped foreign reserve, soaring inflation rate, widening, trade deficit and economy on the verge of collapse. The threat of being placed under blacklist by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) looming large, strained relations with its neighbours Iran Afghanistan and especially with India where relationship hitting rock bottom post Pulwama incident and India withdrawing Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status and imposing strict trade policies, beside other domestic challenges forced Pakistan, in some way or the other  to enter into dialogue with US and pursue to restore much needed $1.3 billion security aid, suspended by US earlier, help in getting funds from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and pressurise  India for  resumption of  talks.

US stand and its concerns

US claimed that the purpose of Imran Khan’s visit was to persuade Pakistan to initiate concrete measures to press forward the peace process in Afghanistan and at the same time take decisive steps against the militants and terrorists within the territory of Pakistan as it has no illusion about active support of Pak Army and Inter Service Agency (ISI) to these elements. US had reiterated that its incumbent on Pakistan to demonstrate its resolve in furtherance of peace process initiated by the US for ‘Repair’ of bilateral relation between the two countries. It also expect Pakistan to play a  positive role in promoting regional cooperation hinting at opening of land route for trade between India and Afghanistan. The main concern of US is to extricate itself from Afghanistan gracefully ensuring peaceful settlement and strengthening the democratic elected Government in Afghanistan.

Trump’s controversial comment on Kashmir

Mr  Trump, as usual foxed  all and sundry when he, during a joint press conference along with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had claimed that Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra  Modi, invited  him to arbitrate between India and Pakistan in resolving long standing issue of Kashmir. Trump’s claim brought sharp response from India strongly rebutting Trump’suggestion and ruled out any third party mediation on Kashmir.

Indian foreign minister, S Jaishankar, given a statement in the Parliament. He denied any such proposal by the Indian Prime Minister to Mr Trump and clarified that “It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally,” he said. I would further underline that any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism.”

Viewpoint

Pakistan Prime Minister was exceptionally upbeat after  conclusion of his visit to the US as, he told supporters at Islamabad’s airport that “Today I felt not as if I have returned from a foreign trip, but as if I have returned after winning the [cricket] World Cup.” So who got what? Both countries got what they wanted. For Pakistan, merely visit to US and meeting with US president, at first place was a success. The visit, at least for sometime has generated the goodwill between the two countries which may help Pakistan in getting US support to avoid blacklisting by FATF, assistance in getting bailout packages from IMF.  

The US President, on revival of $1.3billion financial aid to Pakistan, replied that US may consider the same in future, however at the same time he pointed out that the aid was not used for the purpose it was released in the past.

Above all, the spontaneous, off-the-cuff remark on Kashmir by the US President is major achievement, claimed Pakistan , though its effect  is primarily for public consumption in Pakistan since US state department issued clarification that Kashmir issue to be mutually resolved between India and Pakistan and US may assist if  agreed by both the countries.

On other side, by showcasing its appreciation to Pakistan for the help that Islamabad has provided in Afghanistan over the last year and treating well Imran Khan will prompt Pakistan “To Do More”  in early settlement of peace process in Afghanistan enabling US to  extricate itself gracefully. US is optimistic this time and expects positive role by Pakistan as its military and intelligence leadership is  on board alongwith Imran Khan.

30 Jul 19/Tuesday                                                   Written by Fayaz

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