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News Analysis | 

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met US Vice President Mike Pence on the fringes of the ongoing session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday, as both countries concurred upon the need to continue engaging with each other despite ever-increasing mistrust since the announcement of the new South Asia Policy.

Washington is likely to stay in the region for foreseeable future so disengagement will be a bane for Pakistan. As things stand, both countries have to look at conduits to break the ice

The Foreign Office released a handout of the meeting, saying that it was held in a cordial atmosphere. “The Prime Minister shared Pakistan’s concerns and views with regard to the US strategy for South Asia. 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 FO statement said.

Read more: Abbasi speaks the language of his political patron

This was the highest level contact between the two countries after Trump’s speech on 21st August. The US President had alleged Pakistan of harboring agents of chaos and by threats of sanctions and military strikes from top Us officials. However, Pakistan not not buckled under pressure so far and showed defiance; it did so by rejecting the allegations, canceling bilateral interactions and increased engagement with regional actors.

Bolstered by support from allies and other regional actors, Pakistan has shown that it is ready to hold firm. Since the past month, Islamabad has tried to broach upon the need for a political solution in Afghanistan instead of pursuing a failed military-heavy policy.

Earlier this month, the US tried to assuage Pakistani concerns and enunciated upon the need to maintain direct contact for peace and stability in Afghanistan

Abbasi’s meeting with Pence and the realization that both countries are important for each other can be attributed to Pakistani concerted opposition to the new policy. Earlier this month, the US tried to assuage Pakistani concerns and enunciated upon the need to maintain direct contact for peace and stability in Afghanistan. With China, Russia, and Iran vehemently criticizing the new policy, the US tried to arrest the fraying Pak-US relationship.

Read more: Potential discussion points between PM Abbasi & US vice president on…

Pakistan, the US, and the region can ill-afford further deterioration of ties. A healthy Pak-US partnership, albeit with different terms of reference is important for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.

However, the opposition thinks that Abbasi should not have met Pence. PTI’s Chief Whip and Foreign Policy scholar, Shireen Mazari took to Twitter to express her disappointment over the meeting.

She tweeted: “Meanwhile Pakistan’s PM shows servile mindset by meeting with US Vice President! Whoever arranged this meeting should be held accountable for this insult to 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

On Tuesday, Chairman Senate, Raza Rabbani had suggested the premier not to meet Pence, saying that Pakistan has been degraded after Trump refused to meet Abbasi. “If Donald Trump does not have time to meet our prime minister, then there is no point holding a meeting with the vice president,” Rabbani said.

Read more: PM Abbasi says Afghan war cannot be fought on Pakistani soil

There is a need to reconfigure ties with the US in-line with the country’s national interests and engage with it. Washington is likely to stay in the region for foreseeable future so disengagement will be a bane Afor Pakistan. As things stand, both countries have to look at conduits to break the ice; the UNGA was an ideal opportunity to do exactly that. This meeting may kickstart a process of improving fractured ties between the two countries.

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