Blinken assures all-out support to Pakistan

FM Bilawal seeks to expand scope of ties with US in talks with secretary of state

Kamrani Yousaf September 27, 2022
A file photo of US State Secretary Antony Blinken. PHOTO: REUTERS


Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington late Monday night in the latest push by Pakistan to seek the US cooperation beyond security and Afghanistan.

The US Secretary of State expressed sorrow over the loss of lives in the devastating floods triggered by unprecedented torrential rains. Blinken assured all-out support to Pakistan at a time when the country is seeking international help.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from both sides. From Pakistan, Bilawal was assisted by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan Ambassador to US Masood Khan and others while Bilenken was accompanied by his senior adviser as well as Donald Lu, the US diplomatic who was at the centre of the ‘Cablegate’ affair earlier this year.

PTI chief Imran Khan had cited the diplomatic cypher as clear evidence of US involvement in his removal through a vote of no-confidence at a time when ties between the two countries were already at the lowest ebb. Imran’s allegations further cast a shadow on the bilateral ties.

Official sources said the visit of Bilawal was aimed at finding ways to build relationships on a sustainable basis in the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

There have been concerns that the US may not be interested in having long-term relationships or is only keen to focus on the narrow aspects of security and counter-terrorism.

Ties between the two countries remained low-key during the PTI government particularly after President Biden took over the White House. He never made a courtesy call to the then premier  Imran Khan in what was seen as a snub to the PTI chief for making controversial statements following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

But since the change of government, there have been visible efforts from both sides to reset the relationship.

In the space of a few months, there have been several exchanges between the two countries. Prime Minister Shehbaz even had a brief interaction with President Biden in New York at a reception he hosted for the world leaders attending the UN General Assembly session.

Similarly, the Biden administration approved a $450 million sale of F16 equipment to Pakistan, something that is seen as significant.

However, despite some positive movement observers believe that India would remain a principled ally of the US in this region and Pakistan doesn't figure prominently in the new changing strategic realities.

Nevertheless, it is believed that the US may not completely turn a blind eye toward Pakistan. It was because of this reason that Biden particularly mentioned Pakistan during his address at the UN General Assembly session. He sought the international community's support for Pakistan in the wake of the devastating floods.

Both sides also discussed the regional and international issues of mutual interests. Bilawal, according to sources, briefed the Secretary of State about the state of the relationship with India with a particular focus on Kashmir.

It is important to note that Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is also in Washington and had a working dinner with Secretary Blinken, who met Bilawal in the afternoon.

Against this backdrop, the meeting between Bilawal and Blinken was seen as a significant development.

President Joe Biden in his address to the UN General Assembly urged the international community to help Pakistan as many parts of Sindh and Balochistan were still under water.

Pakistan in particular is seeking debt restructuring from the developed countries, also known as Paris Club, in order to divert resources for the reconstruction efforts.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his meeting with the Head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also sought $3 billion upfront to deal with the climate-induced floods.

In both debt restructuring and upfront IMF payment, the US could play a crucial role.

Other issues on the agenda of Bilawal's meeting with Blinken include finding ways to enhance trade and US investment in Pakistan.


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