Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at the State Department on Monday.—AFP
Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at the State Department on Monday.—AFP

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday he was pleased to announce another $10 million for food security assistance, adding he was sending a simple message that “we are here for Pakistan just like we have been in the past”.

Secretary Blinken said this during a meeting with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari where they had a “good and engaging and extensive conversation” on a host of issues.

At the meeting, Mr Blinken also talked about managing a responsible relationship with India. He said: “Our colleagues also spoke about China and we also critically talked about deepening our relations.”

Secretary Blinken said: “We are convinced to do much more on trade and convinced that the [bilateral] relationship is strong and will continue to be stronger.”

In meeting with Bilawal, vows to rebuild ties

During the meeting, Mr Blinken also said: “We are meeting when Pakistan’s one-third [area] is under water. We have a sense of urgency and sense of determination. We’re looking ahead to rebuild [bilateral ties].”

He further said that both countries had worked together on mutual threats and worked together on counterterrorism and shared common objectives on Afghanistan.

“This is a resilient relationship, capable of coming over all challenges,” Secretary Blinken said.

FM Bhutto-Zardari reached Washington on Sunday evening with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and other members of his team.

Soon after his arrival, the foreign minister met US State Department’s Special Representative for Commercial Affairs Dilawar Syed and discussed with him various options for the expansion of trade ties.

In the meeting, Mr Syed “emphasised US private sector’s role in rebuilding infrastructure post-floods,” the foreign minister said in a tweet.

He said he also “highlighted Pakistan’s potential and sought greater US investment” in the country and in the government’s green energy plan.

Mr Syed said that in his meeting with the foreign minister, he expressed “our solidarity with the millions of Pakistanis impacted by the devastating floods”, adding that the US was leading the international effort to support Pakistan with an initial direct assistance of $53m. “We discussed building on the momentum from my recent visit to Islamabad to expand US-Pakistan economic relationship,” he said.

The United States is Pakistan’s largest single country export market and one of the largest sources of foreign investment, with US direct investment growing by 50 per cent in the past year. The US-Pakistan bilateral trade reached nearly $9 billion in 2021.

US companies and their local affiliates are among Pakistan’s largest employers, with roughly 80 US companies directly employing more than 125,000 Pakistanis, and more than one million Pakistanis employed indirectly. In 2021, US firms invested up to $5.7m in corporate social responsibility initiatives in Pakistan.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari also met US corporate leaders, representatives of various American companies and prominent members of the Pakistani American community at the residence of the Pakistani ambassador.

At an earlier briefing to Dawn, State Department’s counselor Derek Chollet acknowledged that the US wanted to maintain friendly ties with Pakistan and it did not want Pakistan to abandon China for improving its relations with Washington.

In a meeting with a delegation of Medicines San Frontier (MSF), the foreign minister appreciated the role this international NGO is playing in providing health facilities to flood-affected people.

The MSF is an international organisation of doctors that provides medical services to the people across the globe.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2022

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