WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has reiterated Pakistan’s importance as a US ‘partner’ in his congratulatory message to new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“Pakistan has been an important partner on wide-ranging mutual interests for nearly 75 years and we value our relationship,” he said in a statement issued by his office on Wednesday evening.

“The United States congratulates newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and we look forward to continuing our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan’s government,” he added.

Secretary Blinken underlined a key point which was also emphasised in several recent statements by the White House and the State Department during the political turmoil that began late last month and ended with former prime minister Imran Khan’s ouster last Saturday.

“The United States views a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as essential for the interests of both of our countries,” Mr Blinken said.

The US media, while reporting Mr Blinken’s statement, noted that it came two days after “the Western-friendly Shehbaz Sharif took the oath of office following days of political turmoil leading to Mr Khan’s dismissal in Pakistan’s first no-confidence vote since 1947”.

The reports, however, quoted US scholars as telling their reporters that the congratulatory message, although warm, was unlikely to lead to “a significant broadening of ties” between Pakistan and the United States.

One of the reports predicted that the relationship “will remain focused on security cooperation, especially on counterterrorism and Afghanistan.”

Another report referred to a Pentagon statement earlier this week, emphasising “healthy military-to-military relationship” between the two countries.

The report pointed out that the Pentagon also noted Pakistan’s “key role in the region” and recognised that Washington had “shared interests” with Islamabad on security and stability in that part of the world.

APP adds: Pakistan thanked the United States for the message of felicitation on the election of PM Shehbaz Sharif.

A Foreign Office spokesperson, in a statement issued in Islamabad, said: “We thank the United States for the message of felicitations on election of Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif.”

“Pakistan and the US have had a long-standing, broad-based and mutually-beneficial relationship that we look forward to further deepen and solidify.

“This is important for peace and development in the region and beyond,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2022

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