Key US senator asks Blinken to ensure Biden calls PM Imran to 'rebuild' Pak-US relationship

Published October 26, 2021
US Senator Bob Menendez speaks during a news conference in Newark, New Jersey, US, March 6, 2015. — Reuters/File
US Senator Bob Menendez speaks during a news conference in Newark, New Jersey, US, March 6, 2015. — Reuters/File

US Senator Bob Menendez said on Sunday that he had asked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge President Joe Biden to have a conversation with Prime Minister Imran Khan in an effort to rebuild the relationship with Pakistan.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee underscored the need for such conversations while speaking at a fundraising event hosted at the residence of a board member of the American-Pakistani Political Action Committee (APPAC), Dr Tariq Ibrahim.

"I think it would serve us well to have such a conversation and, you know, when we have these conversations, they are honest, and that means they are also transparent,” the senator said, referring to the request he had made to Blinken.

Such a course, he said, means “where there is agreement, we build upon it and where there is disagreement we talk about how do we get through that disagreement.”

“I think there is an extraordinary moment in which this is a relationship that can be rebuilt to what it once was," Menendez said.

Read more: Not waiting for phone call from Biden, says PM Imran

“And if we can rebuild on it we, I hope, we can expand on it — not just about Pakistan in the context of a military or security dimension, but much greater — talking about an incredibly large population that is very young; there is tremendous opportunity to build upon the economic dynamism that we create,” he said.

“And that's what I look forward to be able to continue to promote as your US senator,” Menendez told the APPAC members.

Diplomatic affront

Biden's apparent refusal or avoidance to engage with Prime Minister Imran Khan since the former assumed office has been viewed as a diplomatic affront and seemingly become a point of contention between the two countries with US lawmakers criticising the reluctance to engage as well.

In an interview with the Financial Times in August, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf had made clear that Pakistan had other options if Biden continued to ignore the country’s leadership.

“The president of the United States hasn’t spoken to the prime minister of such an important country who the US itself says is make-or-break in some cases, in some ways, in Afghanistan — we struggle to understand the signal, right?” Yusuf told The Financial Times.

“We’ve been told every time that… [the phone call] will happen, it’s technical reasons or whatever. But frankly, people don’t believe it,” he had said. “If a phone call is a concession, if a security relationship is a concession, Pakistan has options,” he added, refusing to elaborate.

At the time, a Biden administration official had said that there were "still a number of world leaders President Biden has not been able to speak with personally yet. He looks forward to speaking with Prime Minister Khan when the time is right.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister himself said in August that he was not really "waiting" for a phone call. "I keep hearing that President Biden hasn't called me. It's his business. It's not like I am waiting for any phone call," he had said in response to a question from a Reuters journalist.

Later in September, the premier had opined that the US president was "quite busy" to call him and discuss the regional situation.

On October 11, during an interview with Middle East Eye, the prime minister had again clarified that he still had not yet spoken to President Biden — a fact which the interviewers had described as "astonishing".

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