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Efforts under way to reach out to Trump team

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WASHINGTON: With the arrival of a vanguard team in the US capital on Sunday, Pakistan launched a major diplomatic campaign to establish early ties with the Trump administration.

Some media reports claim that as part of these efforts, Pakistan is also considering the possibility of sending Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend US President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural ceremony on Jan 20.

Officials at the Pakistan Embassy, however, say that while Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi’s visit to the United States is the first of several planned in the early days of the Trump administration, it’s “still too early to talk about the PM’s visit”.

Mr Fatemi, who begins his official engagements in Washington on Monday, will also visit New York early next week for meetings with members of the Trump transition team. In Washington, Mr Fatemi will meet members of the new US Congress, elected last month, and officials of the outgoing Obama administration.

There are at least two people in the senior Trump team who are familiar with Pakistan and are aware of its importance in the fight against terrorism — the nominee for Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, and the proposed National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. Mr Flynn, also a retired general, spoke about Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism when he attended a qawali at the Pakistan Embassy in September.

But diplomatic observers in Washington say that while Pakistani visitors may find some ‘eager listeners’ both in Washington and New York, they will also have to face “some probing, if not hostile, questions from their hosts,” as one of the observers said.

Complications in bilateral relations

At a news briefing earlier this week, the White House described the US-Pakistan relations as complicated, telling journalists how President Barack Obama once expressed the desire to visit Pakistan but complications in the bilateral relationship prevented him from doing so.

And the incoming Trump administration’s election manifesto, so far their only official policy document, also highlights the complications that can continue to mar relations between the United States and Pakistan.

The document acknowledges the relationship as “necessary” but “difficult” but it also expressed the desire to “strengthen” the “historic ties that have frayed under the weight of international conflict”.

And in the next sentence, the document warns that the process of normalisation “cannot progress as long as any citizen of Pakistan can be punished for helping the War on Terror”. This, obviously is an oblique reference to the incarceration of Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped the US track down Osama bin Laden.

The document then raises a subject that sets alarm bells in Islamabad, Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

“Pakistanis, Afghans, and Americans have a common interest in ridding the region of the Taliban and securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal,” the document says.

At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained how the Obama administration had dealt with the complications that prevented it from rebuilding the frayed ties.

“The US relationship with Pakistan is one that’s quite complicated, particularly when you consider our overlapping national security interests,” he said. “The relations between our two countries, particularly over the last eight years, have not been consistently smooth, particularly in the aftermath of the raid on Pakistani soil that President Obama ordered to take Osama bin Laden off the battlefield.”

Mr Earnest, however, said that while “President Obama’s conversations with his counterpart in Pakistan have been an important priority,” he was unable to visit the country.

“At one point in his presidency, I do recall President Obama expressing a desire to travel to Pakistan. For a variety of reasons, some of them relating to the complicated relationship between our two countries at certain times over the last eight years, President Obama was not able to realise that ambition,” he explained.

Mr Earnest noted that a US president’s visit to a country sends a powerful message to the people of a country “and that’s true whether it’s some of our closest allies, or that’s also true if it’s a country like Pakistan, with whom our relationship is somewhat more complicated”.

The White House official said that when President Trump begins planning his overseas travel, “he’ll have a range of places to consider, and Pakistan would certainly be one of them” because “this obviously is an important relationship”.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2016

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Comments (35) Closed



Logic Dec 05, 2016 08:56am

Wow what about China!

sachbol Dec 05, 2016 09:13am

@LOGIC. Pakistan and China friendship is constant and time tested.....will not get affected.

Shahnoor syed Dec 05, 2016 09:36am

Great statesman like diplomacy by Mr. Nawaz Sharief.

By issuing a congratulatory statement on President elect Donald Trump's election victory followed up by a phone call and now sending a personal envoy Pakistan Prime Minister has made mature diplomatic move that are going to leave positive impact and will be appreciated by the new administration.

Shahnoor Syed, Chicago, USA

Zak from panama Dec 05, 2016 09:46am

@Logic

Some people who talked about ' isolation' are concerned about friendly China !! Soon they will know how they can not isolate emerging leader of Central Asia ! Take good care !!

AnAthiest Dec 05, 2016 09:49am

@sachbol It will once you need to pay interest on Chinese loans.

Unk Dec 05, 2016 10:36am

Have some self respect. Don't

trust Dec 05, 2016 10:50am

To me their every sentence gives a strong impression that they want to bring is down.

on Dec 05, 2016 10:56am

whats the hurry ..let him take charge and announce his policies..and take stand accordingly ...International relations between countries need to be based on national interest rather than personal bonds

Aqdas Dec 05, 2016 11:07am

Wise move.There is going to be major policy shifts in the coming days for a lot of countries. Though i dont think Pakistan will get too much sway, but at least they tried.

Zakir hussain Dec 05, 2016 01:25pm

First let the invitation come and then attend..this is norm in today's world

khuram Dec 05, 2016 01:52pm

We should try to appease Trump at any cost by any method. He is man of word, he can save us.

H. Khan Dec 05, 2016 02:00pm

America is the best friend any country in the world can ever have.

PPP Dec 05, 2016 02:38pm

Where are those who says that China and CPEC is in our side so we don't care about America or American friendship in past gave Pakistan more destruction and losess then benefits.

Mahmood Dec 05, 2016 03:15pm

Hope Pakistan will use the opportunity to persuade Trump to modify his views about Muslims and Pakistan in particular. There is nothing worse then kissing up to, being complacent and going with the flow, but get nothing in return.

Very few Arab countries are making much foray to reach out to Trump and establish a relationship that they could leverage. Let's hope our PM+FM has learned a few lessons from previous diplomatic blunders and is not seen to to eager to latch on to to the new administration so hastily - only after receiving one phone call from the President-elect. There should be a give and take. And in the words of Trump himself, 'be prepared to walk away' if you don't get the right deal.

sahid_kashmiri Dec 05, 2016 03:40pm

@sachbol Time tested! Think again with historical facts

Basit Ali Dec 05, 2016 03:53pm

Do we even have any iota of self respect left, before he was elected read any newspaper or listen to any TV channel and you would know what we felt, now we are ready to bend over. Will our foreign policy will always be confused policy?

Fullyfaltoo Dec 05, 2016 04:07pm

Why does Pakistan have absolutely no self respect? Why "reach out" to someone? Why not wait and watch and then decide how to take diplomacy further? Such incompetence from the leaders is why Pakistan today in such a state.

Khan Dec 05, 2016 04:16pm

Nawaz sharif have some self respect...atleast wait till u get invitation.

Thought Dec 05, 2016 04:17pm

US is agreed it is complicated relation with Pakistan , so let it be .

sultan Ahmed Dec 05, 2016 04:29pm

Pakistan's foreign high ranking official is visit on the United States He will make his best efforts to see official Trump's transition team.

As has been expressed desire by the reliable and independent media reports Pakistan prime minister may participate the oath taking ceremony in Washington/white house nut no sideline line discussion time can be set in this regard.

Insurgency has been increased in Baluchistan.this situation can not be disregard easily.

India,consistently considering the situation and waiting the chance as availed in the Pakistan;s eastern wing that will not be availed because there is no a vast sea space in between.

krishna Dec 05, 2016 04:58pm

Okay. Very good. excellent

Ali Dec 05, 2016 05:09pm

Pakistan have self respect! On the other hand Pakistani govt needs US donations so of course they will kiss up to Trump

qaiser ahmed Dec 05, 2016 05:19pm

Do not waste your time .

Fawzia H Dec 05, 2016 05:57pm

Not necessary to run after America. Let them come to us.

M.Saeed Dec 05, 2016 06:25pm

Put your genuine efforts to amicably settle the Kashmir dispute and then get the nuclear safety on a gold platter.

M.Saeed Dec 05, 2016 06:29pm

@AnAthiest: You have to remember that, it is only the second part of the project. The first part of the CPEC, which is known as the 8th modern wonder of the world, has already been completed very successfully and in operation since last 40 years.

M.Saeed Dec 05, 2016 06:29pm

@Fullyfaltoo: There is something called 'tested the tempo' before acting.

soumya Dec 05, 2016 07:39pm

Best of luck...By the way, the synonymous word for Trump is 'flip flop' and 'Madness'...May the the God save this world !!

Mustafa R. Dec 05, 2016 07:55pm

@Logic;

What about China?, are you trying to isolate them too?

Mustafa R. Dec 05, 2016 07:57pm

@AnAthiest;

'It will once you need to pay interest on Chinese loans.'

Pakistan can easily afford to repay the loans if the investment does not end up in Panama.

Mustafa R. Dec 05, 2016 08:01pm

@sahid_kashmiri;

'Time tested! Think again with historical facts'

What are the 'facts'? You have your 'facts' and let the others have their's.

Mustafa R. Dec 05, 2016 08:03pm

@Aqdas;

I don't think any countries except China and Russia have too much sway with Trump. If one is to believe his campaign rhetoric, no country would have much sway with an insular America.

nil Dec 06, 2016 02:25am

Trump insults China and Pakistan is reaching out to Trump. What about respect towards China ?

Waqas Shaikh Dec 06, 2016 08:42am

Don't waste your time, Mr.Fatemi. America is well tested and failed at every corner. Doing same thing again and again and expect different results is not going to happen.

Anwar Mahmood Dec 07, 2016 09:29am

When China and Pakistan have mutual love relationship, Pakistan and America can have mutual friendship relationship.

And in general all nations have to work on global peace and kick the war out of their minds. For that reason, Paks are extremely peace loving people and that must be known to Mr Trump.