ISLAMABAD    -   Foreign policy experts Wednesday cautioned about the challenges that lie ahead amid improving ties between Pakistan and the United States.

The experts, however, welcomed progress in ties with the US as they spoke at a Round-table Conference at Islamabad Policy Institute) on ‘PM Imran Khan’s Visit to US: A Review and the Road Ahead’.

This was the second in a series of discussions hosted by the think tank on US relations. The earlier conference held before Prime Minister Imran Khan’s departure to US had looked at the state of the relations and the expectations from the trip, where Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had delivered the keynote. Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Donald Trump at the White House. This was the first summit-level engagement between Pakistan and the United States since 2015.

PM Khan and President Trump held comprehensive discussions with a focus on building a broad-based and enduring partnership between Pakistan and the United States and strengthening cooperation between the two countries to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity in South Asia.

Prime Minister Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue to support the process in good faith. He added that pursuing the process was a shared responsibility.

The two leaders vowed to work together across a broad range of areas. Both leaders acknowledged the immense opportunity and potential for mutually beneficial collaboration in diverse fields such as trade, investment, energy, economic connectivity, and defense and security cooperation.  Former ambassador to US Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who has also served in the past as UN Secretary General’s special representative, said the visit provided a “good beginning”, but there could be problems ahead if things do not go as expected by President Trump.

He said, besides, dealing with an “impatient America”, the other fear is that there could be some “false flag operation” in Occupied Kashmir, which could be blamed on Pakistan, to neutralise the positivity generated by the trip. Ambassador Qazi also called for not attaching too much importance to Trump disclosure about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him for mediation on Kashmir.

Executive Director Centre for International Strategic Studies Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said that the bonhomie seen during Prime Minister’s visit would help bolster Pak-US relations. He said that it remains to be seen how the understandings reached during the visit would play out in the days ahead. Professor Mujeeb Afzal, who teaches at Quaid-e-Azam University, while listing the positive outcomes of the visit for Pakistan said that it would reduce US hostility towards Pakistan; Islamabad’s contribution to Afghan peace were acknowledged; and Modi’s dilemma with regards to Kashmir stood exposed.

He, however, feared that environment of distrust in Washington with respect to Pakistan would continue and delivering the ceasefire in Afghanistan would be difficult for Islamabad.

“It was a good event, but there was not much of strategic importance in it,” he contended. Yasir Mahmood, a foreign policy analyst, maintained that Pakistan’s economic compulsions forced the country’s leadership to go overboard. He too mentioned the complications in delivering on US expectations and noted that President Trump is a “desperate person”. Regarding President Trump’s Kashmir mediation remarks, he said, it would force Modi to prove his anti-Pakistan credentials at home, which could add to Indo-Pak tensions.

Policy Analyst Raza Rumi described the trip as a “door opening” in Pak-US ties. He said re-engaging with US expands Pakistan’s options with respect to economy and regional security, as America has been a traditional ally. He said it was important to rebuild US ties because of huge Pakistani diaspora there, the remittances they send back home, and the fact that America is one of major export destination for Pakistani products.

Executive Director IPI Prof Sajjad Bokhari, in his remarks, said: “There is a feeling that whatsoever President Trump offered to Prime Minister Imran Khan is subject to progress on Afghanistan. It is not unconditional.”

Explaining his contention, he said, the two sides agreed to a mechanism to monitor the understandings reached during the Summit, but there was no resumption of high level bilateral dialogue, which could have provided a platform for a sustainable dialogue.