ISLAMABAD - Pakistan should continue to work with the United States but on its own terms, senior Pakistani diplomats determined Wednesday at the three-day envoys’ conference here.

A senior diplomat, who attended the conference on the second day, told The Nation there was a consensus that Pakistan should not walk away from the US and engage in talks that could lead to a better understanding between the uneasy allies.

“The envoys and Khawaja Mohammed Asif (the foreign minister) agreed that both Pakistan and the US needed each other. The envoys believed Pakistan could do better by refusing to accept all demands of the US and putting forth its own terms,” the diplomat said.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi participated in the yesterday conference via a video link. The conference, a regular annual feature, is discussing the foreign policy.  The recent anti-Pakistan speech by US President Donald Trump added spice to the agenda. The mention of some terror outfits, allegedly operating inside Pakistan, at the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa summit in Xiamen also remained a hot topic for discussion.

Pakistan had taken the BRICS declaration lightly saying Islamabad shared the group’s concern over the rise of terrorism. Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria - in response to the Xiamen declaration – had said Pakistan was also ‘seriously concerned’ about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in the South Asian region.

Before the BRICS statement, US President Donald Trump - in his first formal address to the nation as commander-in-chief on August 20 - had warned Pakistan: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.”

The hostile statement infuriated Pakistan as the civil and military leadership reminded Trump of the sacrifices rendered by the country in the war on terror.

Within days, US ambassador in Islamabad David Hale met National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua to clarify the US position. Ambassador Hale claimed the media had generally taken the policy piece by piece instead of interpreting it as a whole. He explained that Trump did not blame Pakistan for failure in Afghanistan.

The clarification cooled down the atmosphere before the Pakistani diplomats sat down to review the foreign policy – especially the Pak-US ties.

Pakistani envoys in various countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan, Iran, and India are participating in the ongoing conference. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will chair the concluding session today (September 7).

As the diplomats review the foreign policy, Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to build cooperation and meet on the sidelines of the UNGA. Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif spoke to Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani over the telephone Wednesday to discuss the bilateral issues.

Immediately after the envoys’ conference, Asif will fly to Beijing tomorrow (September 8) to discuss the foreign policy and the future strategy. He will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and is expected to discuss Trump’s speech. The Foreign Minister will also visit Russia, Iran and Turkey before joining Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the UNGA.

Another foreign ministry official, who also participated in the conference, told The Nation that the diplomats were positive to improve ties with the US but had supported the idea of giving a detailed presentation to the Trump administration about Pakistan’s sacrifices over the years in the war on terror.

He said the BRICS declaration was not seen as a shocker as Pakistan had already banned the outfits named by the member countries in the joint statement. “They have not blamed Pakistan for supporting terrorism. There are only a few words in the lengthy declaration that speak about the proscribed organisations. We are already conducting operation against these outfits,” he said.

The official said the diplomats had proposed to expose India’s backing for terror groups who were creating instability in Pakistan. “You will see a glimpse of the new aggressive policy at the United Nations General Assembly (later this month),” he added. Earlier, addressing the inaugural session, Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif had said there were no hideouts of the militants in Pakistan. Asif emphasised the need of a non-military solution for Afghan conflict. The Foreign Minister said the world must highlight the Kashmir issue and stop India’s state-terrorism in the occupied territory.