The three-day visit to USA by Prime Minister Imran Khan coming in the backdrop of a nosedive in the relations between the two countries, following President Trump accusing Pakistan of duplicitous role in Afghanistan and the rejection of his policy on Afghanistan and Asia by the latter, was probably the most high profile visit by any head of Pakistani government to that country.

Among the outcomes and dividends of Prime Minister’s sojourn to USA was an irrefutable reality that the ambience of mistrust and hostility triggered by the aggressive and un-ceremonial diplomacy by President Trump had visibly been transformed into a conciliatory tone underpinned by the desire to work together to bring an end to the Afghan conflict and recalibration of bilateral relations which are mutually beneficial to both the countries. President Trump however did not mince words about the previous Pakistani governments not cooperating with US the way that they should have. He said “I do not think Pakistan respected the United States in the past. I do not think Pakistan respected US Presidents. I think Pakistan could have done a tremendous amount with respect to Afghanistan: they did not do it. But it does not matter now. We have a new leader here”. He expressed his faith in Imran Khan as both the leaders seemed to have struck chord of cordiality. He termed Imran Khan as a popular and great leader.

President Trump expressed his willingness to invest in Pakistan; admitted that Pakistan was helping a lot in resolving Afghan conflict with sincerity and that both the countries were engaged in finding a way out of the Afghan war. He also hinted at the possibility of restoring the $1.3 billion assistance to Pakistan which was suspended by his administration for lack of desired cooperation from Pakistan, depending on how things work out. The US expects some positive outcome of the current efforts by September and wants Pakistan to persuade the Taliban on agreeing to a ceasefire and direct negotiations with the Afghan government for firming up a future political arrangement in the country paving the way for US pull out. Further progress in regards to restoration of US assistance in the form of coalition support fund and military assistance to Pakistan most likely would depend on successful talks at Doha and signing of pact among different Afghan stakeholders. President Trump also alluded to this proposition when he said it would depend on how things work out.

It is pertinent to point out that the change in the attitude of President Trump towards Pakistan is contingent upon two factors. One is the failure of his strategy to find a solution to the Afghan conflict through use of force and second the steadfastness and astute diplomacy by Pakistan to remain engaged with the US in spite of her hostile attitude and making sincere efforts in facilitating dialogue between the Taliban and the US as well as working towards bringing the Taliban and the Afghan government to the negotiating table. Pakistan stands vindicated as far as its view regarding finding negotiated solution to the Afghan conundrum is concerned. President Trump is looking ahead to seek second term in the coming elections. If he succeeds in ending the Afghan war it could also help his cause for winning the franchise of the people of the United States for the second time. That consideration might have also contributed to some extent in making President Trump to revisit his Afghan strategy.

Before Prime Minister Imran Khan embarked on his visit to USA, a senior US administration officer dilating on the ensuring interaction between President Trump and his guest said “Khan’s visit to the White House is an opportunity to repair relations. We want to send a message to Pakistan that the door is open to repair relations and build an enduring partnership if Islamabad changes its policies with regard to terrorists and militants. We are clear eyed about the history here. We’re under no illusion about the support that we could see from Pakistan’s military and intelligence services to these groups. So we will look for concrete action.” The official nevertheless acknowledged the efforts which Pakistan has made so far in regards to bringing peace to Afghanistan. President Trump also expressed the same view and the way the talks went and the chemistry reflected by the two leaders amply suggested that the haze in this regards has been removed to a great extent and both sides are now looking ahead to re-write their relations. The presence of the COAS and DG ISI might have also helped in clearing some misgivings.

Prime Minister Imran Khan undoubtedly advocated Pakistan’s narrative on resolving Afghan conflict and relations between the two countries in an admirable manner with the firmness of a leader having faith in the righteousness of his cause. Speaking at the United States Institute of Peace he summed up his views in regards to future relations with US in these words “We would like to have relationship based on mutual trust, as equals, as friends and not as before when Pakistan wanted aid and in return it was asked to perform certain tasks for the US. In his parleys with President Trump he stuck to that narrative while extending assurances of doing everything possible for resolving the Afghan conflict. Addressing the Pakistan causes in the US congress comprising 40 members Imran Khan unequivocally declared that future relations with US would be unpinned by trust and truth which also indicated a positive change in how Pakistan looked at strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.

Another positive gain of Prime Minister’s visit to US was a paradigm shift in US stance on Kashmir. The US has always insisted that Kashmir issues needs to be resolved by India and Pakistan bilaterally. President Trump changed that narrative by saying that he was willing to act as a mediator for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. He quoted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also having asked him to act as a mediator in the Kashmir dispute. He expressed his astonishment that the Kashmir issue had remained unresolved for such a long period. Though the spokesman of the Indian foreign ministry has denied that Modi asked President Trump for mediation on Kashmir, reiterating that Simla Agreemnt and Lahore Declaration provided a bilateral mechanism in that regard. But the fact remains that what President Trump said marks a radical change in the US stance on the issue. US is a super power and as rightly pointed out by Imran Khan President Trump could play a significant role in resolving the Kashmir dispute and earn the prayers of one billion people of the sub-continent whose lives were hostage to the Kashmir dispute.

On the basis of the vibes emanating from Washington it can be safely concluded that the Prime Minister has been quite successful in giving a new direction to the relations between the two countries as well as in disseminating Pakistan’s narrative in regards to the resolution of Afghan conflict quite effectively in addition to eliciting a positive response of the US President on the Kashmir issue.

The writer is a freelance columnist.ashpak10@gmail.com

On the basis of the vibes emanating from Washington it can be safely concluded that the Prime Minister has been quite successful in giving a new direction to the relations between the two countries.