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Trump foresees meeting with Pakistan leaders

Updated March 22, 2019

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"I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan,” says Trump. — AFP/File
"I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan,” says Trump. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump hopes to meet Pakistani leaders soon as he acknowledges that relations between the two countries are “now very good”.

President Trump made this surprise announcement at the end of a White House press talk on Wednesday afternoon when a journalist asked him to comment on the current situation between India and Pakistan.

“Pakistan — we’ll be meeting with Pakistan [leadership]. I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan,” he said.

Mr Trump made these comments hours after a senior administration official warned at a news briefing in Washington that the United States remained concerned about India-Pakistan tensions as their militaries were still on alert nearly three weeks after their most dangerous confrontation in decades.

The official also warned that another terrorist attack in India could “be extremely problematic for Pakistan and it would cause a re-escalation in tensions”.

The briefing followed media reports that both India and Pakistan had deployed additional forces on the Line of Control (LoC) and had also put their air forces on high alert.

Several news outlets claimed that India had not only deployed missiles along the LoC but the Indian Air Force (IAF) has also asked its government to “urgently purchase” more missiles. India “has continued to maintain a high level of “operational alert” since last month’s clashes and the Indian Army also has moved up emergency purchases of stock-up ammunition, the reports added.

The reports noted that Pakistan has responded by deploying its fighter jets close to the disputed border in Kashmir and has scattered its aircraft across the country. The PAF was also conducting night flights and other exercises and had put its air defence network on alert, the reports added.

The Bloomberg news agency reported that India also sent nuclear submarines, an aircraft carrier battle group and dozens of other navy ships to the Arabian Sea after a tense military stand-off with Pakistan.

Diplomatic observers in Washington linked China’s strong message of support for Pakistan this week with these developments. After their first ever foreign minister-level strategic dialogue in Beijing earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “No matter how things change in the world and in the region, China will firmly support Pakistan in upholding its sovereign independence and territorial integrity and dignity.”

At the Washington briefing, the senior administration official acknowledged China’s role in reducing India-Pakistan tensions, but he also regretted Beijing’s decision to block a US-backed move in the United Nations last week to designate Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2019