Relations with Pakistan much better today than before, says President Trump in meeting with PM Imran
Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at the White House on Monday for his first one-on-one meeting with US President Donald Trump.
He was received by President Trump, who greeted him with a handshake and a pat on the arm.
The two waved to PTI supporters gathered outside the White House before heading inside for their meeting.
In televised remarks from inside the Oval Office, President Trump noted that the US is working with Pakistan to leave Afghanistan, saying that he does not want the US to be "a policeman" in the region.
"Pakistan is helping us a lot now on Afghanistan," he said, adding that relations with the country are much better now than before.
In wide-ranging remarks, he also offered to intercede to improve strained relations between Pakistan and India, and further said that aid to Islamabad could be restored depending on the kind of understanding reached between the two leaders.
To a question asking him about his own unfavourable views about Pakistan in the past, Trump said: "I don't think Pakistan respected the United States [in the past]. I don't think Pakistan respected its [the United States'] presidents. I think Pakistan could have done a tremendous amount with respect to Afghanistan: they didn't do it and I don't blame them because they were dealing with the wrong president. Who knows?
"I think they could have helped us a lot in the past, but it doesn't matter [now]. We have a new leader, he is going be a great leader of Pakistan. And have a new leader here [...] but no, I think Pakistan could have done a lot [in the past] but it chose not to just because they didn't respect US leadership," he said.
"I think Pakistan is going to do a lot. I really do. I think Pakistan is going to make a big difference. I think Pakistan will save millions of lives in Afghanistan because I really believe they can — they have a power that other nations don't have with respect to Pakistan," he said.
"We were paying $1.3 billion as aid for many years but the problem was that Pakistan — it was before you [PM Imran] — was not doing anything for us. They were really, I think, subversive. To be honest, we have a better relationship with Pakistan right now than we did when we were paying that money. But all of that can come back depending on what we work out [...] and I think at the end of this, the end of very short time, we can have a very great relationship with Pakistan.
"It is a great country, they are very great people. I have many friends from Pakistan [...] they are great people, smart, tough — they are tough, there is no question about that. They are like him [pointing to PM Imran], they are tough," said Trump.
The US president also offered to mediate the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said.
"If I can do anything to help, let me know," he said, to which PM Imran said that if Trump would, he would "have the prayers of more than a billion people".
The premier said the US, being the most powerful country in the world, can play the most important role in bringing peace to the subcontinent.
"There are over a billion and quarter people in the subcontinent, they are held hostage to the issue of Kashmir, and I feel that only the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together.
"From my point, I can tell you we have tried our best, we have made all overtures to India to start a dialogue, resolve our differences through dialogue, but unfortunately we haven't made headways as yet. But I am hoping that President Trump would push this process," said Prime Minister Imran.
In response, Trump revealed that India had also asked him to mediate.
"I was with Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi two weeks ago. We talked about the subject and he actually said, 'Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?'. I said where, he said Kashmir, because it has been going on for many, many years.
"I was surprised to know how long it has been going on. I think they would like to see it resolved, you [Pakistan] would like to see it resolve [...] and if I can help, I would love to become a mediator," said Trump.
"I have heard so much about Kashmir; it's a beautiful place."
India's Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, however, shortly after the remarks by Trump denied that any such request had been made by Modi.
Peace in Afghanistan
President Trump said that he could win the war in Afghanistan in a week, but that he doesn't want to kill millions of people and wipe Afghanistan “off the face of the earth”.
Prime Minister Imran told reporters that there was only one solution for Afghanistan and remarked that a peace deal with the Taliban was closer than it had ever been.
"This is the closest we have ever come," he said, agreeing that a military 'solution' to the Afghan war would result in a catastrophic loss of lives.
He said he hoped that in the coming days, "we will be able to urge the Taliban to talk with the Afghan government and come to a political solution", a point that was promptly appreciated by Trump — who again noted that Pakistan had helped tremendously in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Imran also highlighted Pakistan's own sacrifices in the so-called 'War on Terror', reminding Trump that Pakistan had lost 70,000 people and billions of dollars due to the conflict.
"I think Pakistan is going to do a lot [with respect to Afghanistan]. I really do. I think Pakistan is going to make a big difference," said Trump.
"I think Pakistan is going to save millions of lives in Afghanistan because I really believe they can, they have a power that other nations don't have with respect to Afghanistan and I would say, as of the moment, they are working very hard and very nicely."
President Trump also said that the US is willing to invest in Pakistan and sees great trade opportunities there. He also talked about expanding trade "10, 20 times".
The US leader stressed that not enough opportunities had been explored between the two countries, indicating that both sides would be see more trade with each other.
In reply to a question on whether he would ever go to Pakistan, which he at one point described as a "wonderful country", Trump joked that while he had yet to be invited by PM Imran, he would "love to" visit one day.
While the two leaders spoke to the media, the senior military leadership, including Chief of Armed Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, arrived at the White House for delegation-level talks.
The premier later met First Lady Melania Trump.
Both sides then held a working lunch to discuss matters of mutual interest.
Ahead of the meeting, US Senator Lindsey Graham, who by some accounts has been instrumental in arranging the meeting, tweeted the following:
"Great meeting with the PM of Pakistan, Imran Khan.
"In my opinion he and his government represent the best opportunity in decades to have a beneficial strategic relationship the US. This will help us secure Afghanistan and the region long-term."
"Tremendous business opportunities exist between Pakistan and the US through a free trade agreement tied to our mutual security interests," he continued in a subsequent tweet.
"It’s also our best chance in decades to reset the relationship between the US and Pakistan.
"Hoping for a great meeting between President @realDonaldTrump and PM Khan today," he concluded.