‘Islamabad wants stand-alone relations with US’

Published April 10, 2021
A screenshot from the event.—White Star
A screenshot from the event.—White Star

KARACHI: “Washington is a very happening place, and the good or bad thing about Pakistan-US relations is that there is never a dull moment,” said Dr Asad Majeed Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States during a Zoom session organised by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP) here on Friday.

Speaking on ‘Pakistan-US relations’, the ambassador said that “We have had some interactions with the Trump administration earlier. But the new administration brings with it very old hands. Hands that know Pakistan well,” he said.

“We have faced very unusual circumstances in the US,” he said about recent developments. “The raging pandemic generated an economic [recession]. Then there were the contested elections followed by impeachment votes. So we see an administration that is still not well set in,” he reminded.

‘China is a new factor’

“It is an administration that is for now internally focused. Putting together an infrastructure plan and dealing with Covid-19,” he said.

Looking at the US foreign policy, he said that China is a new factor. “China has kind of come out as a major factor of foreign policy for this US administration, and that factor is felt more by the diplomatic corps,” he said.

“There is a need for the USA to establish trust, to reconnect with its old partners and allies that it lost during the Trump administration. There is a need for alliance-building ... and [to] retain America’s technological and economic links,” he said.

Pakistan’s envoy to Washington says US needs to establish trust to reconnect with its old partners

He also said that climate change was also an important area for the Biden administration. “Climate change and America’s role in it has come out strongly and it has been a key topic between bilateral conversations. So there are priorities that are influencing decision-making in the USA,” he pointed out.

“Here, too, we have a new and transforming Pakistan, interested in promoting its economic interests. So I see some kind of convergence here, of how the new administration sees the world and how we are showing willingness to engage in peace in the region while achieving economic growth and prosperity for our people. Our counterterrorism campaign has also improved the security situation here,” he said.

“Another change which will figure in calculus here,” he said, “is how India has also changed. And it has changed for the worse.

“In India, the BJP government has launched actions against its own minorities and atrocities in India-Occupied Kashmir have also grown. So there is an overall deterioration in relations there. A value-based foreign policy emphasises on caring about human rights,” he pointed out.

‘No military solution to Afghanistan’

“While we remain focused on pursuing a stronger trade relationship with the US, our main conversation track is about Afghanistan. Today, Afghanistan generates conversation and not contention between Pakistan and the USA. We both know that there is no military solution for Afghanistan. The peace forces there are the best option for achieving long-time peace in Afghanistan. Looking back at what happened in Afghanistan, the administration is all for peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

Talking about Pakistan’s relations with America, he said that “now we have strong people-to-people relations. We have students studying in US universities. There is also the largest number of Pakistani diaspora that is a linkage understated.

“There are also economic linkages as the USA has been one of the top five investors here and the third if we calculate remittances that are not income earned by people working in the US. It is the income of those who work for US companies in Pakistan. There is a US corporate footprint here. Pakistan’s geographic location also brings up further potential here,” he said.

Then our systems, our medium of instruction is English. So we come out as familiar and friendly for building sustainable relationships. Islamabad also wants a stand-alone relationship with the US, and not a relationship because of the prism of India or the prism Afghanistan, etc,” he said.

ESUP president Aziz Memon also spoke.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2021

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