Breaking the ice in their ties, Pakistan and the US have agreed to “stay engaged” and carry forward the relationship that has been under strain after President Donald Trump warned Islamabad against providing safe havens to terrorists. This was decided when Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly here yesterday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said.
“It was a good meeting,” Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua told reporters on the 45-minute meeting between Abbasi and Pence. She termed the progress made at the meeting as an ‘ice-breaker’. She said it was agreed that the United States would send a delegation to Pakistan in October to continue the talks.
It was the highest contact between the two countries since Trump announced his new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia on August 21 in which he had warned Pakistan for its continued support to terrorist groups and warned Islamabad of consequences if it continues to do so.
Trump had also asked India to play a greater role in war-torn Afghanistan, much to the dislike of Pakistan. “It was agreed that the two countries would stay engaged with a constructive approach to achieve shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region,” the Foreign Office statement said.
Ahead of the meeting, Pakistani media had reported that Islamabad is ready with a tough diplomatic policy if the US imposes any sanctions on it or lowers Islamabad’s major non-NATO ally status over failure to crack down on militants. Meanwhile, the White House said that Vice President Pence had an “important conversation” with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Abbasi on the new South Asia strategy of President Trump.
“The Vice President and Prime Minister Abbasi had an important conversation about the President’s South Asia strategy that was announced late last month,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting.
During the meeting, Pence highlighted ways that Pakistan could work with the United States and others to bolster stability and prosperity for all in South Asia. Pence reiterated President Trump’s belief that “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort” in the region, the White House said. “We value our relationship with Pakistan, a long-term partnership for security in the region. And we look forward to exploring ways that we can work even more closely with Pakistan and with your government to advance security throughout the region,” he said.
Abbasi thanked Pence for the invitation to meet. He said Pakistan intended to continue efforts to “eliminate terrorism.” He said Pakistan contributed to a “very difficult war,” suffered casualties and economic losses. In a fact sheet, the White House said that the President outlined a new Afghanistan strategy to ensure that country cannot be used as a terrorist base to threaten the US by establishing a plan for Afghanistan that is based on conditions on the ground, not an artificial timeline.
The US is also pressing Pakistan for greater cooperation in countering all forms of terrorism and enhancing global and regional stability.