WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s historic ties with China and its efforts to forge closer relations with Russia will not have an adverse effect on its traditional partnership with the United States, says Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.
In his first interaction with the US media on Friday afternoon, Pakistan’s new envoy in Washington said that Islamabad’s decision to reach out to other nations in the region and its “close historic relations with China should not be seen as a zero-sum game for any country”.
Mr Chaudhry said that Islamabad wanted close ties with the Trump administration because of the two countries’ shared goal of defeating militant Islamic State group and because of Pakistan’s strategic role as “a bridge” between the United States and China.
American officials emphasise greater bilateral cooperation to root out terrorism
The creation of Pakistan-China economic zone was already attracting investment interest from the United States and Europe, he added. The ambassador said that Pakistan’s overtures towards Russia aimed at preserving Islamabad’s regional interests.
Eager to present the soft image of a country often blamed in Washington for allowing terrorists to operate from its territory, the ambassador invited a group of Pakistani-American athletes to the embassy on Pakistan Day.
The group’s leader Agha Hasnain Qizilbash had the unique honour of running in all 50 states of the United States and in six continents. Another member of the group, Zafar Shahbaz, is the first Pakistani to have run full marathons on all seven continents, including Antarctica.
Other members of the group — Agha Adeel, Zain Azam, Nasir Baluch and Yaseen Bajwa — are all accomplished runners.
“They are the true ambassadors of Pakistan who left an imprint of Pakistan-US friendship on all American states,” said the ambassador while sharing with the audience accomplishments of the Pakistani nation in the fields of sports and culture.
Yet, both the chief guest, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, and the evening’s main speaker, Indiana Congressman Andre D. Carson, underlined Pakistan’s role in fighting terrorism and called for greater cooperation between the two countries for defeating this common enemy.
Congressman Carson, however, reminded Americans that Pakistan had provided a large number of very able physicians, computer scientists and professors to the United States, which should also be appreciated.
Mr Chaudhry tried to allay concerns about Pakistan-China ties but media reports of his briefing noted that despite such clarifications, this relationship “could be seen as an affront by the Trump White House to Washington’s long-standing security and economic partnership with Pakistan”.
He pointed out that there was no military solution to the Afghan problem and the only way out was to have an ‘Afghan-led’ and ‘Afghan-owned’ political settlement.
Mr Chaudhry said that relations with Afghanistan were of crucial importance for Islamabad as instability there had a spill-over effect on Pakistan, being an immediate neighbour.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2017