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US-Pak Relations: Converting from Coercion to Cooperation

Addressing a seminar on Pakistan-US relations in Islamabad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stressed that the future of bilateral relations should be marked with economic cooperation and strategic engagement

cooperation

News Desk |

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on Tuesday, highlighted the ‘active cooperation’ between Pakistan and the United States and noted that a constructive and cooperative approach will allow the two countries to improve bilateral relations and achieve the shared objectives of peace, stability, security and prosperity in South Asia.

He was addressing a seminar, titled “Pakistan-US Relations: Way Forward” at the Islamabad Policy Institute in Islamabad. Foreign Minister Qureshi noted that Pakistan and the US must work closely together to gain broader engagement with Afghanistan and to enhance bilateral economic cooperation and increase trade volumes to welcome peace and stability across the South Asian region.

Shedding light on the frustrations and disappointments between the two countries, FM Qureshi stressed the need to look for a realistic and honest way forward.

The Foreign Minister highlighted that the active cooperation between Islamabad and Washington has benefited both the countries despite the ups and downs in their relationship.

Coercion to Cooperation

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi noted that the PTI-led government has spearheaded a policy of diplomatic engagement, and its engagement with Washington, amongst other states, has steered Islamabad from diplomatic isolation to diplomatic invitations.

Addressing the dynamics of the US-Pakistan relations, FM Qureshi highlighted that from coercion, the relationship has progressed towards cooperation.

“There was a concerted effort of diplomatic isolation, and I can say today, from isolation we have moved towards invitation. Invitation, not just to the White House, but for a comprehensive engagement, in which there will be a one-on-one meeting between the principals, and then there will be a restrictive meeting where the political and the military leadership will be engaging with them, followed by an extended interaction.”

Read more: Qureshi, Pompeo discuss regional peace and security challenges

FM Qureshi lamented that earlier, Pakistan had “limited access” and it was a “difficult environment” under which the Pakistani ambassadors were operation in Washington. Sharing his observations about Washington’s environment for Pakistani diplomats, Qureshi noted, “The environment was an environment of coercion, and we have struggled with some success, converting that environment of coercion to cooperation.”

Ups & Downs in the Relationship

Shedding light on the frustrations and disappointments between the two countries, FM Qureshi stressed the need to look for a realistic and honest way forward.

He noted, “Pakistan’s relations with the United States have always figured prominently in our foreign policy architecture. This has been a long-standing, consequential and wide-ranging relationship, including the domains of economic cooperation, trade, energy, education, science and technology, defense cooperation, law enforcement, as well as security and strategic stability.”

The visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pakistan in September 2018, presented an opportunity to revive the momentum of the relationship.

He admitted that there have been “ups and downs” in the bilateral relations between US and Pakistan, but when seen from a broader spectrum, the relationship is marked with active cooperation and mutual benefits.

The Foreign Minister highlighted the need for a constructive and cooperative approach for the two countries to realize their common objective of peace and security in the region, and prosperity for the people of South Asia.

Citing an example of US-Pakistan cooperation, Shah Mehmood Qureshi noted, “The extraordinary achievements during the 1980s and post 9/11 success against the common enemy of terrorism, it all became possible through close and dynamic cooperation between the two countries.”

The foreign minister noted that from August 2018, Islamabad has witnessed yet another “gradual warming up of relations”, and the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pakistan in September 2018, presented an opportunity to revive the momentum of the relationship.

Read more: US-Pakistan relations: Will there be a shift?

He noted that Mike Pompeo expressed Washington’s desire for “resetting the relationship”, and after holding a “meaningful dialogue with the leadership, he sought Pakistan’s support for reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

Referring to his visit to Washington in October 2018, FM Qureshi noted that it helped in building up on the discussions with the US Secretary of State in Islamabad. He said, “I had useful and productive discussions with US Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.”

Imran’s Visit to Washington

The Foreign Minister added that the US Senators and Congressmen were receptive to Pakistan’s view of engagement and cooperation. He noted that the visit of US Senator Lindsey Graham further built up and generated the momentum for leadership interaction between the two countries.

Pakistan has been facilitating the US-Taliban talks in good faith, underscoring that it remains a shared responsibility.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, “Now, President Trump has invited the Prime Minister to the White House. We see this invitation as an acknowledgment of the inherent importance of the relationship for both sides.”

Highlighting the objectives the Imran Khan-led delegation seeks to achieve from this upcoming visit, FM Qureshi noted, “First and foremost, we believe that moving forward with a constructive and positive approach is in the best interest of both, Pakistan and the US.”

He stated that Islamabad seeks to work towards broader engagement, including economic and trade cooperation, and peace and stability in South Asia.

He added, “We are mindful of the US priorities regarding Afghanistan. Pakistan has welcomed President Trump’s farsighted decision to pursue a political solution in Afghanistan, which in fact, was an endorsement of our own position, espoused for a long time.”

“Pakistan has been facilitating the US-Taliban talks in good faith, underscoring that it remains a shared responsibility. We are also engaged closely with the US Special Representative on Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.”

Read more: Trump-Imran meeting expected in the near future: FM Qureshi

FM Qureshi referring to the joint statement issued by the US, Russia and China, and noted that all relevant stakeholders in the Afghan reconciliation process acknowledge Pakistan’s role in facilitating an intra-Afghan dialogue. Citing Ashraf Ghani’s official visit to Islamabad and the Bhurban Conference of June 2018, which allowed all Afghan political stakeholders to convene a dialogue, Qureshi stressed that Pakistan’s is dedicated to building a regional consensus and garner support for Afghan reconciliation.

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