WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Tuesday that the United States wanted to further strengthen its ties with Pakistan while Pakistan’s US envoy hoped that the Trump administration would soon restore the suspended training facility for the Pakistani military personnel.
Secretary Pompeo’s Independence Day message went beyond customary felicitation, as it recalled seven decades of close ties between the two nations and expressed the desire to rebuild the troubled relationship.
The message also resonated with incoming prime minister Imran Khan’s statement last week that a recent lack of trust had eclipsed once close ties between the two countries and his government would now try to rebuild a more “balanced and trustworthy” relationship.
“For more than seven decades, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has rested on the strong foundation of close ties between our two peoples,” Mr Pompeo said.
“In the years ahead, we hope to further strengthen these bonds, as we continue to look for opportunities to work with the people and government of Pakistan to advance our shared goals of security, stability and prosperity in South Asia.”
After the Pakistan Embassy’s flag-hoisting ceremony, Ambassador Ali J. Siddiqui said at a news briefing that the suspended IMET (International Military Education and Training) facility for Pakistan was useful for both countries and both wanted it restored.
“We hope we will make progress in re-establishing this programme. It will be among the early programmes to restart when the military and security aid to Pakistan is restored,” Mr Siddiqui said. “It is a very important programme, some of our top commanders have been trained here. We are working on it to restart soon.”
The entire world appreciated Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts and was “eager to learn from us”, said the ambassador while explaining why he believed the Americans also could benefit from training with Pakistani military officials.
Mr Siddiqui said that Mr Khan’s recent statement “covered all the sensibilities” of the US-Pakistan relationship and Islamabad would base its efforts to rebuild ties on this statement.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States nosedived in January when President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of providing “safe haven” to terrorists and suspended security aid to the country. Last week, the US Congress slashed its defence aid to Pakistan to $150 million, from more than a billion dollars in the early stages of the Afghan war.
In an Independence Day message to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce said there was “no greater bridge between our countries than the Pakistani diaspora, (which) has long kept me and others informed about US-Pakistan relations”.
Congressman Brad Sherman, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he appreciated the significance of the US-Pakistan relationship and was “committed to strengthening our bilateral relations and advancing our shared interests”.
Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2018