WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday and the two talked about expanding the partnership on economic stability and Pakistan’s food security.

“Spoke with the Pakistani foreign minister today on expanding the US-Pakistan partnership on economic stability and our joint efforts to support the Afghan people,” Secretary Blinken wrote in a tweet.

In a separate statement, US State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price said the discussion focused on “the devastating effects of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine on food security in Pakistan and worldwide”.

The foreign minister, however, tweeted a brief statement, saying: “We reaffirmed our mutual desire to further strengthen bilateral ties by expanding our engagement in trade, energy, health and security marking 75 years of our relationship.”

Both sides also underlined the desire to “increase people-to-people and business-to-business contacts” between the two countries, he added.

Price said that Secretary Blinken welcomed the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties and “reaffirmed our joint goals for enhancing US-Pakistan bilateral partnerships on economic stability, climate, and health.”

The secretary and the foreign minister “discussed coordination to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and regional stability” as well as “commercial and people-to-people ties,” he said.

The need to strengthen economic partnership, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the Ukraine war and its impact on food security were not mentioned in the foreign minister’s tweet.

The Global Network Against Food Crises reported in May that Pakistan was among top 10 countries hit hard by the global food crisis. Over 4.66 million people were reeling from food insecurity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh. But even a bigger crisis for Pakistan is the shortage of fuel, also caused by the Ukraine war.

Secretary Blinken was traveling to the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, when he received Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s call. The call followed US Special Representative for Business and Commercial Affairs Dilawar Syed’s visit to Islamabad last week for talks on the need to “build on commercial and economic ties” between the two countries.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022

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