Winning back US trust a big challenge for Pakistan

Foreign Office officials say Islamabad ready to ‘give-and-take’, Pompeo’s visit not being taken lightly

2018-08-27T03:40:46+05:00 SHAFQAT ALI

ISLAMABAD - As Pakistan awaits Unites States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit, Islamabad believes it will be a big challenge to win back the US trust, diplomatic sources said.

Already there has been some bad blood after Pompeo – who is expected in Islamabad on September 5 - telephoned Prime Minister Imran Khan and reportedly discussed ‘Pakistan-based terrorists’ issue with him. Pakistan immediately rejected the US State Department’s version of the telephonic conversation and claimed that it was limited to congratulations to Imran Khan by Pompeo and usual pledges to improve ties.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the US State Department’s statement after Pompeo’s telephone call to Imran Khan was ‘contrary to the facts’.

He made it clear that Pakistan’s foreign policy front would not be apologetic, saying “We will safeguard our interests with respect and honour”, adding that “The US should also understand that the world is no more unipolar. It’s now fast becoming multi-polar”. He however, added that Pakistan wanted good relations with the US based on mutual respect.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was not taking Pompeo’s visit lightly and was prepared to have some ‘serious meetings’. One official said, “We know it will be a big challenge to win back the US trust after recent decline in our relationship. It will be a slow process unless the US understands our position and is ready to listen. We have done our homework and Pakistan’s leadership will hold talks with Pompeo fully prepared”. He said that at this point, the US was trying to assert itself. The US leaders want us to submit rather than argue. This will not be an easy thing for us to do. We are ready to give and take but not just give them whatever they want, the official said.

Pak-US ties have been frosty for several months. In January, the US suspended security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. The State Department said that the US was suspending ‘security assistance’ to Pakistan as the trust level between the two countries had drastically declined. Washington said that Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan claimed that it fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources ‘which has cost over $120 billion in 15 years’. Pakistan said that the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

But in June, during the caretaker government’s brief term, Pakistan and the US agreed to jointly achieve common targets of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. On June 7, US Vice President Mike Pence telephoned the then Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk to discuss bilateral ties and regional situation. Both the leaders agreed to further strengthen bilateral relations.

They also agreed to achieve joint targets of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

On the same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telephoned Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and sought Pakistan’s cooperation in political reconciliation in Afghanistan. Although there was no official word from the military about that telephonic conversation, yet officials said that Pompeo and Bajwa discussed the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

This came after the two countries had imposed tit-for-tat travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats in May, suggesting a new low in their troubled ties.

Pakistan had hosted first direct peace talks between Kabul and Taliban in 2015, but they ended when Kabul announced the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Another foreign ministry official said that Pakistan would be hoping to improve ties with the US but would ‘take a stand’ on ‘our national interest.’ “If the US wants to impose its will, we may not encourage them as we have other options. We are a sovereign nation. But we definitely want to remove misunderstandings,” he said.

 

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