Experts warn of challenges in meeting US expectations

Say Trump’s offers are subject to progress on Afghanistan


​ Our Correspondent July 25, 2019
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Foreign policy experts on Wednesday welcomed progress in ties with the United States made during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US, but strongly cautioned about the challenges that lie ahead.

The experts were speaking at a round table conference at Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) on ‘PM Imran Khan’s Visit to US: A Review and the Road Ahead’. This was the second in a series of discussions hosted by the think tank on US relations. The earlier conference held before PM’s departure to US had looked at the state of the relations and the expectations from the trip, where Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had delivered the keynote.

Former ambassador to US Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who has also served in the past as UN Secretary General’s special representative, said the visit provided a “good beginning”, but there could be problems ahead if things do not go as expected by President Trump. He said, besides, dealing with an “impatient America”, the other fear is that there could be some “false flag operation” in Occupied Kashmir, which could be blamed on Pakistan, to neutralise the positivity generated by the trip.

Qazi also called for not attaching too much importance to Trump's disclosure about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him for mediation on Kashmir.

Executive Director Center for International Strategic Studies Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said that the bonhomie seen during Prime Minister’s visit would help bolster Pak-US relations. He said that it remains to be seen how the understandings reached during the visit would play out in the days ahead.

Prof Mujeeb Afzal, who teaches at Quaid-e-Azam University, while listing the positive outcomes of the visit for Pakistan said that it would reduce US hostility towards Pakistan; Islamabad’s contribution to Afghan peace were acknowledged, and Modi’s dilemma with regards to Kashmir stood exposed. He, however, feared that environment of distrust in Washington with respect to Pakistan would continue and delivering the ceasefire in Afghanistan would be difficult for Islamabad.

Yasir Mahmood, a foreign policy analyst, noted that President Trump is a “desperate person”. Regarding President Trump’s Kashmir mediation remarks, he said, it would force Modi to prove his anti-Pakistan credentials at home, which could add to Indo-Pak tensions.

Policy Analyst Raza Rumi described the trip as a “door opening” in Pak-US ties. He said re-engaging with US expands Pakistan’s options with respect to economy and regional security, as America has been a traditional ally. He said it was important to rebuild US ties because of huge Pakistani diaspora there, the remittances they send back home, and the fact that America is one of the major export destinations for Pakistani products.

Executive Director IPI Prof Sajjad Bokhari, in his remarks, said “There is a feeling that whatsoever President Trump offered to Prime Minister Imran Khan is subject to progress on Afghanistan. It is not unconditional.” Explaining his contention, he said, the two sides agreed to a mechanism to monitor the understandings reached during the Summit, but there was no resumption of high level bilateral dialogue, which could have provided a platform for a sustainable dialogue.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2019.

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