PM’s US visit to evolve ties beyond Afghanistan-centered relations: Qureshi

Published: July 20, 2019
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says Islamabad-Washington relations have moved from coercion to cooperation under PTI government. SCREENGRAB

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says Islamabad-Washington relations have moved from coercion to cooperation under PTI government. SCREENGRAB

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington this week seeks a reset in Pakistan-US ties with a focus on expanding bilateral cooperation and evolve it beyond the Afghanistan-centered relations of the last several years, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday.

“We are here to reset our bilateral relationship,” he told a press briefing ahead of Prime Minister Khan’s arrival in the US capital for a visit on the invitation of President Donald Trump.

Qureshi said the prime minister’s July 22 meeting with President Trump at the White House will highlight the points of convergence, where cooperation can be mutually beneficial. “We want to take forward an environment of trust and cooperation that has developed between the two countries from a low point in the ties.”

Pakistan’s relations with the United States have shown a gradual improvement under the Imran Khan government, which has cooperated with the Trump administration’s goal of resolving the Afghan conflict through negotiations involving the Afghan Taliban.

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“The relationship has moved from coercion to cooperation,” Qureshi said, referring to meetings between chief diplomats of the two countries and the Trump administration’s praise for Pakistan’s role toward pushing Afghan peace process.

“We have a realistic and pragmatic approach to Pakistan-US relations. I do not want to raise unrealistic expectations… the basis is going to be honesty.”

Besides a meeting between PM Imran and President Trump, the two sides will have extended discussions at the White House. Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will also accompany the prime minister to bilateral engagements during the visit. “This shows there are no disconnects between Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership, as had been the case previously,” he added.

Qureshi said the Imran Khan government was not begging for aid but wanted to cement economic and investment cooperation. “We will not compromise on Pakistan’s national interests,” Qureshi said.

He saw a visible change in the environment conducive to enhancing Pakistan-US ties since the two sides started a series of diplomatic engagements in 2018 and Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on the question of Afghan peace.

The foreign minister explained as the US goes for a political solution in Afghanistan and extricates itself from the conflict, there will be greater space for a focus on expanding Pakistan-US bilateral relations in potential areas of interest.

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Qureshi listed a number of areas of convergence between Islamabad and Washington including desire for peace in Afghanistan and a peaceful South Asia. In this context, Qureshi acknowledged the US role on defusing Pakistan-India standoff in the wake of Pulwama attacks.

Thirdly, he said, Pakistan wanted a mutually beneficial economic relationship with the United States and Prime Minister Imran would showcase Pakistan’s investment potential.

He also referred to Pakistan’s relations with China and said Pakistan was open to US investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “They are welcome to come and invest,” he said of the possibility of US being part of the investments in the multi-billion dollar projects.

Pakistan’ss Ambassador to the United States Asad M Khan was also present during the press briefing.

During the visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan would address a gathering of Pakistani community in Washington, have a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meet Senate Foreign Relations Committee and address members of US-Pakistan Business Council.

The prime minister will also interact with members of Pakistan caucus on the Hill, which, the foreign minister said, had bipartisan support of around 40 members of Congress.

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