ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday claimed that lingering deadlock in ties with the United States had been broken after talks between visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the new government.
Briefing reporters soon after the US top diplomat flew out to New Delhi after holding high-level with the country’s top civilian and military leadership, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reported ‘forward movement’ in talks, insisting there was no demand of ‘do more’ from Washington.
However, the US embassy issued a statement while Qureshi was busy addressing the news conference, saying, “In all of his meetings, Secretary Pompeo emphasised the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability.”
The tone, nevertheless, was not harsh compared to the statements by some other US officials. Before leaving for New Delhi, Pompeo told American journalists at the Noor Khan Airbase that he had come to Pakistan to reset the relationship “between our two countries across a broad spectrum – economic, business, and commercial, the work that we all know that we need to do to try and develop a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan, which benefits certainly Afghanistan but also the United States and Pakistan”.
“And I’m hopeful that the foundation that we laid today will set the conditions for continued success as we start to move forward,” Pompeo further said.
Pompeo, who was accompanied by Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford and Trump’s special envoy Zalamay Khalilzad, first held talks with the foreign minister and then met with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The meeting at the Prime Minister Office, though the Foreign Office characterised it as courtesy call, was thought to be the highlight of Pompeo’s trip as Imran was joined by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and DG ISI Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar.
Qureshi said in the past US officials often held separate meetings with the civil and military leadership leading to speculations that all state institutions were not on the same page.
But it was not the case now as the prime minister was joined by the army chief and DG ISI in a clear message that on the issues of national interests all institutions were on the same page.
He then confirmed that Secretary Pompeo held a separate meeting with the army chief, something he claimed was not unusual given the US delegation included the senior military commander.
The visit was taking place against the backdrop of simmering tensions between the two ostensible allies. The build-up to the visit was not ideal either as couple of incidents — including readout issued by the State Department after Imran-Pompeo telephonic conversation and Pentagon’s cancelation of $300 million in ‘aid’ vitiated the atmosphere.
However, contrary to pre-visit analysis, the foreign minister claimed that negotiations were held in a ‘cordial and positive’ environment. He also brushed aside the impression that there was tough talking from either side.
“Today’s visit has set the stage for resetting the ties and the impasse in the relationship has been broken,” Qureshi told the news conference.
He said the two sides had ‘candid and open discussions’ and the conclusion was that the solution to the Afghan problem was through dialogue.
“This is the position Imran has been advocating for years. It is a welcome development that the US has expressed readiness for direct talks with the Taliban,” he said.
He said the US side asked for help in achieving that goal and Pakistan would certainly play its part. However, he apparently linked Pakistan’s support to the US actively playing a role in defusing the tensions with India.
Qureshi said easing of tensions with India would help Pakistan concentrate on playing its part for a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem.
He said Secretary Pompeo’s visit also dropped a clear hint that the US had no plans to stay in Afghanistan forever, something that might dispel fears that Washington wants to extend its stay in the neighbouring country to keep a check on China and Russia.
The foreign minister accepted the invitation of Secretary Pompeo to visit Washington to take the discussions forward.
Qureshi said he would hold the meeting with his US counterpart when he would go for the annual UN General Assembly session in New York.
Qureshi also confirmed that he would soon undertake a visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of his Afghan counterpart. “Afghanistan and Pakistan’s future is interlinked,” he stressed.
He added the US delegation was also conveyed that the new government’s mandate was to work for the betterment of people.
“Our objectives are peace, stability, regional connectivity and economic development. We can achieve these objectives by following a policy of reaching out to neighbors,” he said
Given that mandate, the government was in process to review the foreign policy.
On the $300 million aid cancelation, Qureshi said he did not raise the issue since the PTI government wanted to go beyond the policy of “give and take”.
“The honourable and respectable nations do not talk and raise such matters,” the foreign minister said, defending not to raise the aid cancelation.
He, however, reiterated that the cancelled $300 million was not aid but reimbursements the country had incurred in the fight against terrorism.
He nevertheless insisted that the Pentagon’s announcement was not a new development as it had already taken the decision earlier this year. And that decision was taken when thd PTI was not in the government.
Meanwhile, an official handout issued by the PM office said Imran Khan said that his government’s agenda was focused on human development and poverty alleviation for which peace and stability in the region was a prerequisite. He underscored his commitment to peace with all neighbors.
The prime minister added that Pakistan looked forward to strengthening its relationship with the US-based on trust and respect.
He shared Pakistan’s perspective on the situation in the region and reiterated its desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Secretary Pompeo congratulated the prime minister on forming the government. He appreciated the Prime Minister’s agenda of socioeconomic development.
Secretary Pompeo conveyed the desire of the US Administration to work with Pakistan to achieve the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.