Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif arrived in Washington on Wednesday for a three-day visit to the US as part of efforts to rebuild bilateral ties frayed after President Donald Trump accused the country of sheltering terror groups. Asif, who will hold talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today, will meet top leadership of the Trump Administration during his visit. He is also scheduled to meet US National Security Advisor H R McMaster tomorrow.
The visit of the top Pakistani diplomat comes less than a fortnight of the US Vice President Mike Pence meeting the Pak Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. The visit indicates a gradual resumption of talks between the two countries that was paused by an upset Pakistan after Trump announced his South Asia policy.
Releasing the daily engagement of Tillerson, the State Department said the two leaders would meet at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department at around 10 am (7.30 pm IST). There would be a camera spray at the top.
“All the issues of mutual interest will be discussed,” a spokesman of the Pak embassy in Washington DC said in response to a question.
The Foreign Minister will also deliver remarks at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a Washington DC-based think-tank. “Foreign Minister Asif will deliver remarks on Pakistan’s reaction since the announcement of the new US strategy. He will discuss the dynamics between Pakistan and its neighbours, the role of regional players such as China, Iran and Russia, and the future of US-Pakistan relations,” USIP said.
According to the USIP, US-Pakistani relations have reached a new nadir following the announcement of the new US South Asia strategy. Trump’s speech appears to have confirmed Pakistani fears that the United States is shifting to regard India as its main partner for engagement in Afghanistan and the region, it said.
Meanwhile, US officials signal a loss of patience with Pakistan over the continued operation by violent extremist groups from within the country that conduct attacks in Afghanistan and India.
Among top US policymakers, a more coercive approach with Pakistan appears to be gaining support. Ideas under discussion include reducing military aid, increasing unilateral drone activity, and revoking Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, the USIP said.