ISLAMABAD: The reset in Pakistan-United States relations would be tested by President Donald Trump’s expectations from Islamabad with regard to a peace deal in Afghanistan, cautioned former diplomats here on Wednesday.

Speaking at a round-table discussion on ‘PM Imran Khan’s Visit to US: A Review and the Road Ahead’ at Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), they were of the unanimous view that everything offered to Prime Minister Imran Khan during his just concluded visit to the White House was contingent upon cooperation for a deal with the Taliban for ending the 18 years long war. They worried that notwithstanding the government’s all sincere and good intentions, achieving a political settlement and implementing the truce in Afghanistan would be a huge challenge.

Say PM’s visit represents progress in relationship with US

Mr Khan’s visit is being projected as highly successful by the government because of the warm welcome he received at the White House and President Trump’s offer of increasing trade, reviewing the suspension of aid and using good offices for mediation on Kashmir.

Former diplomats Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Ali Sarwar Naqvi, and Yasir Mehmood, who spoke on the panel along with academician Dr Mujeeb Afzal and journalist Raza Rumi, noted that the visit represented progress in ties when seen in the context of strains in relationship of the two countries over the past few years. However, they warned that a failure to deliver on the US expectations could cause the bonhomie to fade away because the American leadership was quite impatient for the deal.

Former ambassador to the US, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, said his worry was that elements hostile to Pakistan could seek to neutralise the positivity generated by the trip by executing some “false flag operation” in India-held Kashmir, which could be blamed on Pakistan. He also called for not attaching too much importance to Trump’s disclosure about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him for mediation on Kashmir.

Executive Director Center for International Strategic Studies Ali Sarwar Naqvi said it remains to be seen how the understandings reached during the visit would play out in the days ahead.

Prof Dr Mujeeb Afzal feared that environment of distrust in Washington with respect to Pakistan would continue and delivering the ceasefire in Afghanistan would be difficult for Islamabad. “It was a good event, but there was not much of strategic importance in it,” he contended.

Yasir Mahmood, a former FO official, maintained that Pakistan’s economic compulsions forced the country’s leadership to go overboard.

Raza Rumi said re-engaging with US expands Pakistan’s options with respect to economy and regional security, as America has been a traditional ally. He said it was important to rebuild US ties because of huge Pakistani diaspora there, the remittances they send back home, and the fact that America is one of major export destinations for Pakistani products.

IPI Executive Director Prof Sajjad Bokhari, in his remarks, observed that while a mechanism to monitor the understandings reached during the summit was established, there was no resumption of high-level bilateral dialogue, which could have provided a platform for a sustainable dialogue.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2019

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