Washington has faith in extending high-level engagements with Pakistan with the agenda of rebuilding its relations with Islamabad, and dismissing the approach of structured dialogue deployed by the Obama administration, said a senior official of the Donald Trump administration.
Addressing a press briefing in Washington, the unnamed US official lauded the initiation of a hotline between the Director Generals of Military Operations of the Pakistani and Indian militaries. The official urged the two South Asian rivals to make use of the hotline.
Washington to Revive Ties
The US official revealed that Washington seeks to revive its structured dialogue with Islamabad, and move away from the practices deployed by the Barack Obama administration. The official said, “The structured dialogue was a diplomatic architecture that was created under the Obama administration. And so, that was how the Obama administration approached its relationship with Pakistan.”
The official added, “If you look under the Trump administration, we have had extensive high-level engagements and certainly Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington demonstrated that.”
The two leaders met again on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September, and reiterated their commitment to strengthen bilateral relations.
Citing Pakistan and Washington’s partnership in brokering a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan, the US official said, “Based on the work we have done together in trying to promote a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, we have been able to expand our relations. We are looking at how, in particular, we can expand our trade and investment relationship.”
The official said that these contacts continue to flourish. Responding to a question about Pakistan’s success in eliminating terrorism and terror financing, the official said, “We have seen positive steps by Pakistan. For instance, under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan which required Pakistan to take 27 actions to avoid being placed on the agency’s so-called blacklist.”
Trump: The Mediator
He said that that the US President Trump has also offer to mediate and “discuss Kashmir directly” during his meetings with the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. He said, “He certainly is prepared to play a mediation role if both countries ask.”
The official said that New Delhi has outright rejected any foreign mediation, and added, “But certainly the United States will continue to encourage an environment that would allow for constructive dialogue.”
The US official observed that while Washington is mindful of New Delhi’s stance on the matter, “that does not mean that the United States is not actively encouraging that a dialogue take place and that an environment of constructive dialogue between the two countries be established”.
For instance, under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan which required Pakistan to take 27 actions to avoid being placed on the agency’s so-called blacklist.”
The official said that the US President is “personally engaged with the leaders of both countries” and realizes the importance of eliminating the potential conflict between Pakistan and India. The official said, “The president has had meetings and phone calls. They have welcomed his engagements with them, and we are certainly going to encourage the steps that could lead to a constructive dialogue.”
Responding to a question of whether the Trump administration is supportive of India’s rhetoric that there can be no dialogue with Islamabad until it takes the measures New Delhi expects it to undertake, the US official said, “We think it’s important that Pakistan take sustainable and irresistible steps against terrorism.”
The official added, “It’s also possible to have a dialogue and we encourage the countries to engage as two nuclear powers living side by side.” Discussing the low-level elections held in occupied Kashmir this week, the US official said that the “very local set of elections” cannot be regarded as a substitute to restore normalcy across the disputed Himalayan valley.
The US Official said, “With the leaders of major political parties in Kashmir under house detention, the question is the restoration of the political process and when will those leaders be released.”
The official added, “We have urged that they be released immediately. There are no charges that have been brought against them. It will be important for true dialogue to take place that political leaders in Kashmir be able to meet and engage in political process.”
During the tenure of Barack Obama, Washington engaged with Islamabad on multiple platforms, including ministerial and official talks, alongside military-to-military engagement. The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency witnessed minimal contact between Pakistan and the United States, but Washington began warming up to Islamabad in its bid to gain Pakistan’s support in engaging directly with the Afghan Taliban.
Earlier this year, the US President hosted the Prime Minister at the White House, and the two heads of state vowed to work towards deepening their political and trade ties. The two leaders met again on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September, and reiterated their commitment to strengthen bilateral relations.