WASHINGTON: The United States hopes to rebuild its once close relationship with Pakistan on the commitments made during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the White House last month, according to US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
In his Independence Day message to the Pakistani nation, Secretary Pompeo also mentioned “the enormous potential” of expanding bilateral trade, which, he says, could bring prosperity to both countries.
Such messages are usually formal, pre-drafted statements, released by the secretary’s office and do not go much beyond expressing good wishes for the nation celebrating its independence.
But Secretary Pompeo availed this opportunity to raise the possibility of reviving bilateral ties and reminded Islamabad that the prime minister’s visit had already laid the foundation for this. Besides a one-to-one with US President Donald Trump, the visit included a series of meetings at the White House between senior aides of the two leaders.
Pakistan’s military chief, as well as the head of its prime intelligence agency, participated in these meetings, as did their US counterparts, including the CIA chief.
Secretary Pompeo did not mention the issues discussed in these meetings, but he recalled that “over the years, the United States and Pakistan have achieved much when we have worked together in partnership”.
In the coming year, “we hope to build on the important commitments made during the recent visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan and senior leaders of the government of Pakistan and deepen our vital efforts to promote regional stability and peace”, he said.
Mr Pompeo then moved to a promise that President Trump made during a joint news conference with the prime minister, that of expanding bilateral trade “by 20 times”, if possible.
“We also hope to tap into the enormous potential of the US-Pakistan trade relationship, delivering greater prosperity to both our countries and further strengthening the bonds between our peoples,” he said.
The statement included “warmest greetings to the people of Pakistan” but it did not mention the Kashmir dispute that has suddenly increased tensions between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed states.
Independent observers in Washington warn that India’s decision to take away Kashmir’s special status could impact Pakistan’s support to US efforts for concluding a peace agreement with the Taliban. Pakistan’s US ambassador Asad Majeed Khan raised this possibility in an interview to The New York Times, pointing out that India had not only removed constitutional guarantees given to Kashmir, it had deployed thousands of additional troops along the Line of Control as well.
Talking to Pakistani journalists in Washington, Ambassador Asad Khan said that while Pakistan was committed to guarding the Afghan border, large Indian deployments along the eastern border could make it difficult for Islamabad to stay focused on Afghanistan. Any shift in deployments could complicate the US-backed Afghan peace process as well, he warned.
Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2019