Pakistan and the United States are discussing a proposal about arranging the maiden meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump, officials said on Thursday, hours after Trump said he was looking forward to meeting the Pakistani leadership.
The proposal for a Imran-Trump meeting is being discussed between the two sides but the final decision hinges on the “positive outcome” of the ongoing efforts to strike a peace deal in Afghanistan, a senior official said on the condition of anonymity. Imran is likely to travel to the US if “all goes well”, the official added.
Trump himself dropped a hint of the possible meeting with the Pakistani prime minister on Wednesday when he told a cabinet meeting that “I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakistan [and] we will be doing that in not-too-distant future”.
When asked to comment on the Trump’s statement and whether there was any chance of the meeting between the two leaders, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said Pakistan looked forward to “positive engagement” with the US at the leadership level. “President Trump’s remarks are indeed a departure from his tweet of 1 January 2018,” Faisal told a weekly news briefing.
The positive vibes coming from the White House are attributed to the recent push for seeking a peace deal in Afghanistan. Pakistan recently brokered direct talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US in United Arab Emirates.
The next round is expected in Saudi Arabia, which suggests a positive movement of the talks. “If the process moves forward in positive direction, certainly there is a possibility of engagement between Pakistan and the US at the highest level,” another official said.
Some sources said that the proposal for Khan-Trump meeting first came from Pakistan. Not long ago, Prime Minister Khan issued a strong rejoinder to Trump over Twitter for his allegations that Pakistan was not doing enough in the fight against terrorism.
“Record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan: 1. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pak decided to participate in US War on Terror. 2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 bn was lost to economy. US “aid” was a miniscule $20 bn,” he had tweeted last month.
Officials here believe that engagement at the high level could help reduce the trust deficit between the two countries. While Trump sounded reconciliatory and expressed his desire to have “great relationship” with Pakistan, he at the same breath repeated accusation.
“I ended the $1.3billion aid to Pakistan because they have not been fair to us. They house the enemy, they help the enemy. We cannot just do that. I ended the money we paid to Pakistan like water – we just paid.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesperson Faisal said that the recent visit of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to Kabul, Tehran, Moscow and Beijing was part of Pakistan’s efforts to evolve a regional consensus on Afghanistan.
During the visit, the foreign minister emphasised close and regular coordination among Afghanistan’s neighbours and the relevant regional countries to assist the ongoing efforts to achieve a broader regional understanding for long-term stability in Afghanistan and the region, Faisal told reporters.
“They agreed that such synergy is necessary to overcome common hurdles and to devise a consensus-based approach for wider regional peace, development and progress,” the spokesperson said, adding that Pakistan would continue its outreach to regional countries and important international partners for mutually-beneficial cooperation and to advance the peace and reconciliation process.
On the possible US troop pullout from the war-torn country, Spokesperson Faisal said that Pakistan, being the immediate neighbour of Afghanistan, was interested that any development in that country led to peace and stability of the region.
“Currently, efforts are underway for a political settlement in Afghanistan. Hence, the withdrawal of US troops should be part of a peace process with a view to ensuring that there is no power vacuum in Afghanistan,” he pointed out. “It is Pakistan’s genuine desire that peace returns to Afghanistan allowing the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and beginning of an era of prosperity and normalcy in the region,” he stressed.