PM Imran congratulates newly sworn in US President Joe Biden

Published January 20, 2021
This file photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan and newly sworn in US President Joe Biden. — PM Imran's Instagram/Reuters
This file photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan and newly sworn in US President Joe Biden. — PM Imran's Instagram/Reuters

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday night congratulated newly sworn in US President Joe Biden following his inauguration.

"Look forward to working with @POTUS in building a stronger Pak-US partnership through trade and economic engagement, countering climate change, improving public health, combating corruption & promoting peace in region and beyond," the premier tweeted.

Biden became the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday, declaring that “democracy has prevailed”. He swore the oath of office to take the helm of a deeply divided nation and inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration's nominated defence chief Gen Lloyd J. Austin said the incoming government sees Pakistan as an “essential partner” in any peace process in Afghanistan and believes that “continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues”.

Read: What will Biden mean for Pakistan?

Gen Austin made these remarks during his confirmation hearing for the post of secretary of defence before the United States Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Pakistan is an essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan," Austin, a former head of the US Central Command, told the committee. "If confirmed, I will encourage a regional approach that garners support from neighbours like Pakistan, while also deterring regional actors, from serving as spoilers to the Afghanistan peace process.”

Asked if he has perceived any change in Pakistan’s cooperation with the US since the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to withhold security assistance, Gen Austin said: “I understand Pakistan has taken constructive steps to meet US requests in support of the Afghanistan peace process. Pakistan has also taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad, although this progress is incomplete.”

The general, however, acknowledged that “many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan’s cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack”.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country,” he said when asked what tools and options the US had to influence Pakistan.

“I will press Pakistan to prevent its territory from being used as a sanctuary for militants and violent extremist organisations. Continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues.”

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