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Doors now open for revival of diplomatic relations between US, Pakistan: FM Qureshi

Updated July 23, 2019

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference in Washington. — DawnNewsTV/File
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference in Washington. — DawnNewsTV/File

Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said United States President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan extended to him by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The foreign minister was addressing a press conference in Washington after three consecutive meetings between the senior leadership of both countries.

"During this tour, the thing that I find unique is that these people have seen the US [Pakistani] community's closeness to this prime minister. You saw that there were thousands gathered in the Capital One arena.

"Even in this very room, we have seen extremely powerful prime ministers and presidents in the past having to address empty chairs.

"The point is, the people that came there and the love that they expressed — that was a message from overseas Pakistanis. I have never seen this kind of a show before.

"This was a very positive message and we are very happy with it," Qureshi said.

Revival of Pak-US relations

According to Qureshi, the exchanges in all three sessions were frank and Pakistan's delegation was able to deliver the message they had come with, "which was to present Pakistan's point of view, as there had been a long gap [in discussions between the two sides] as an interaction of this level had not taken place in the past five years.

"For five years, the top leadership of the two countries had not met. Our country did not have a foreign minister and for five to six years we did not have any lobbyists appointed here — all of this led to a vacuum in the relationship between the two sides."

Qureshi said that in an effort to further revive the relations between the two countries, a meeting with the Pak-US caucus will be held. "The caucus, which has been dormant for a while, will be revived. I remember I had made a promise to this effect in this very room. I would like to mention Tahir Javed, who made tremendous efforts towards the caucus's revival.

"I just met with Javed, and he let me know that the number [of people in the caucus] has gone up to nearly 80 now. I can assure you that in the recent past, no Pakistani leader has had the opportunity to have this much interaction [with the US leadership] as Prime Minister Imran has had. The point of all this interaction is to put forward Pakistan's point of view. This is because the structure [of the US government] is federal in nature, so no matter what the Executive wishes, nothing can happen without the support of the legislature.

"You also know that the [US] legislature has a high-level of ingress from India. This is evident if you look at their staff and their think tanks. Keeping this in mind, we will also try to increase our interaction over there.

"I have told our ambassador here that our embassy's interaction with Capital Hill should increase and be more effective than before."

Talking about the seriousness from both countries towards rebuilding the relationship, Qureshi said: "We cannot forget the fact that the relationship between the two countries was such that no door was being opened for us in the time of Alice Wells and Lisa Curtis. We used to ask for time [for discussions] and they were not ready to give that to us. That was the level [we were at] a few months ago, please understand that. Wasn't our stance the same at the time? Was our Foreign Office not the same at the time?

"From that, we have come this far. I am not saying that this sitting has completely changed the way things were for us. I am saying that a door that was completely shut for us ... a possibility has been created for that door to be opened. We have come here in all seriousness to rebuild this relationship. The stiffness that once existed in our relationship has been lessened.

"You must remember that when Secretary [of State] [Mike] Pompeo visited Pakistan in August 2018 and when I reciprocated the visit in October 2018, we had said that it is our wish to reset our relationship. That's when people had said that on one hand there's the US South Asia Strategy, on the other there is this wish — it was deemed to be quite a contrast. Today we have seen a new beginning, a new chapter is being opened, we should take this positively and hope that things will get better.

Economic ties between Pakistan and the US

Speaking on the trade front, the foreign minister said: "Interactions between two countries are heavily based on economic ties, which is why it is important that we now pay attention to economic diplomacy too — like I mentioned yesterday during my interaction with the investors.

"The world looks at economics and looks for ways to cater to its own economic needs, so we will try that we also move forward in that direction."

When asked about US economic assistance which had been withdrawn in recent times, Qureshi said: "The first thing that we need to see is why the [economic] programmes had stopped. It was because of the trust deficit that had been built between the two countries.

"Now that we are making an effort to curb that deficit, we can hope that those programmes will be reinstated."

Speaking of the FATF and the pressure being exerted on Pakistan, Qureshi said: "The FATF's greatest focus is on money laundering. Prime Minister Imran Khan has openly said that the plight of South Asian countries lies in the fact that the elite class their takes the money that the country is making and the foreign assistance it gets and misuses it. They send their money out of the country through money laundering.

"America needs to help us out, keep a check on money laundering. Until that happens, the common man in third world countries will continue to suffer and poverty will remain on the rise there. These are words used by the prime minister himself today. He made these comments in today's sitting. This is his commitment, as far as money laundering is concerned.

"The other thing is terror financing. You all know what our stance is on that, we have paid a hefty price for it. We make very clear cut statements in this regard today. We have not come here to lie, nor have we come here to make promises that we cannot keep. There is no point in promising something that you cannot deliver on — that is what we have been doing in the past. We as a government will not promise that which we cannot deliver.

"That said, we want progress in both these things (against money laundering and terror financing). I don't know how much political will the previous governments had in these matters, but one thing is sure, the current government has a very strong will to move forward in these matters — and we have taken concrete measures in this regard. We even have told everyone about the measures we have taken.

"However, there are limitations, but we are trying to get past those. Earlier, there was neither will nor capacity in this regard — now there is will and capacity is being built, so we believe there will be progress in this regard."

Kashmir mediation and India's reaction

Speaking of India's reaction to President Trump's offer to mediate between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, Qureshi said:

"Of course India has reacted this way, what else can we expect? They are hardly going to blow trumpets on the offer. India has always reacted this way, they do not want any sort of interference on the Kashmir matter.

"They always say that they want bilateral talks on Kashmir, then they never come to the table for these talks. They do not want mediation and they do not want bilateral talks.

"Pakistan's stance on the matter is very simple: we want peace, we want peace efforts, we believe that the only solution to the problem is through talks."

Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal belt

Speaking of the current situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan's efforts to restore peace in its own tribal areas, Qureshi said:

"We all saw that right before the current [Pakistan] government elected, a new US policy was announced and in it, Pakistan was primarily blamed for the situation in Afghanistan. Our point of view is completely opposite to that.

"We believe that the reasons for the Afghan situation are manifold. The internal situation within Pakistan plays a great role in their regional situation. Furthermore, we kept saying and now the world has seen that Pakistan has made huge efforts on our side of the border and cleansed our own areas. We have restored peace there and started reconstruction there, because of which, a number of people that had to repatriate from there have started returning to their homes.

"The latest example [of peace and normalcy] there is the election that took place in the tribal belt a couple of days ago. The best thing about those elections was that they were completely peaceful, no untoward incident was reported there. The second great thing about those elections was that a large number of people took part in the voting process there — including a lot of women. Thirdly, the results of those elections were accepted by everyone."

The foreign minister also touched upon the matter of some candidates, wishing to be a part of PTI, that contested the election independently because they were not given a party ticket. "Some candidates that have won independently wished to contest the election under the PTI banner. However, the party's committee made some decisions and was unable to provide them tickets. Those candidates then chose to contest the elections independently while saying that once they win, they would join the PTI and support it. Due to these claims, we believe that the PTI will be able to secure 10 out of the 16 seats that were contested upon. Five of those seats already belong to the PTI, the other five we will gain when the independents join us, as is their constitutional right after being notified by the election commission."

"The point of letting everyone know this is to show that the world and the people of the area have all witnessed and accepted these elections and appreciated the efforts the government has put into them."

FM Qureshi's views on the matter differ from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, who said that strict action will be taken against PTI members that chose to contest the election independently.

Presence of military leadership on the trip

Answering a question regarding the ISI and army chiefs' presence in the tour, the foreign minister said: "This is actually not the first time that our country's [military] leadership has been part of our discussions with the US.

"I remember clearly, when I was the foreign minister earlier, a strategic dialogue had taken place. In that dialogue, I was present with Hillary Clinton and our chief of army staff at the time, General Kayani, had been having a discussion in the same room with the US military leadership. So this has happened before and it is not out of the ordinary".