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Will Trump and Imran Khan be meeting in 2019?


News Desk |

President Trump, during a press talk, on Jan 2, had hinted that he might be meeting Pakistani leadership – meaning PM Imran Khan – sooner than later. He had said, “I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakistan [and] we will be doing that in not too distant future”

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in his social media post maintained that the US should acknowledge the role of Pakistan; he said, “Peace in Pakistan is connected to the peace in Afghanistan, for which the US has a vital role to play.  Placid relations with the US are important for regional stability. America should move forward, keeping in mind the role of Pakistan– who has suffered a great deal due to war on terror; that would further improve the situation”.

On Jan 8, Pakistan’s leading English paper, The Dawn, reported through its correspondent from Washington that “exploring the possibility of an Imran-Trump meeting will be one of the priorities of Pakistan’s new envoy”. Paper’s correspondent Anwar Iqbal, a Washington insider, was referring to Dr. Asad Majeed who just arrived to replace the outgoing Ambassador, Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.

Pakistan is definitely trying its best to facilitate talks between the US and Afghan Taliban but then as recent developments have shown there are limits to what can be achieved.

Correspondent referring to media reports in the US, Pakistan, and India claimed that both Islamabad and Washington are exploring the possibility of bringing Mr. Khan to Washington for a White House meeting with President Trump. It then added that diplomatic sources in Washington believe that such a meeting can only materialize if there is tangible progress in US-Taliban talks.

Dawn Story is Purely Speculative

But foreign office sources in Islamabad are surprised by Dawn’s story. “While Ambassador’s job is always to facilitate contacts between the two countries, but is this a priority at this stage is a surprise”, one source commented to GVS on conditions of strict confidentiality. political sources close to PM Imran Khan are also surprised; they maintain that PM Khan will always look towards improved relations with the US, and meeting the US president will be a good opportunity but no one close to him has sensed any urgency or “priority” in this regards. They argue that this is the first government in Islamabad after many many years that does not derive its legitimacy by approvals from Washington.

Read more: New Pakistani Ambassador to US wants an early Khan-Trump meeting

Nawaz and Zardari’s governments have always been very keen to court Washington to create impressions of international support inside Pakistan. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) sessions have been looked upon as opportunities to meet the US leadership on sidelines and Pakistani media had spent days of speculations if any such meetings will take place.

But PM Imran Khan has proved to be totally different. He refused to attend the UNGA session in September despite many pressures from inside his party and declined the invitation to attend World Economic Forum Summit in Davos in January 2019.

Earlier rounds of talks with Alice Wells and Zalmay Khalilzad had taken place in Doha, however the last round of talks, in the third week of December, took place in Abu Dhabi.

Foreign office sources believe that a meeting between Trump and Pakistani PM, Imran Khan, cannot be ruled out; expecting this in the year 2019 is only natural. And nothing is more credible than Trump’s own words when he say’s “we will be doing that, in not that distant a future” – however Dawn’s story the way it has been structured creating the impression that Islamabad and its new Ambassador are desperate for this looks like total speculation.

Pakistan Foreign office is carefully looking at the whole regional situation as it is unfolding. Pakistan is definitely trying its best to facilitate talks between the US and Afghan Taliban but then as recent developments have shown there are limits to what can be achieved.

Read more: Trump ‘looks forward to’ meeting Imran Khan

On Jan 9, Afghan Taliban canceled the Riyadh round of talks with the US. Their sources claimed that both the UAE and Saudi Arabia were forcing them to sit face to face with the Kabul government and they did not want to do it. Taliban also demanded that next round of talks should be held in Doha where they maintain an office. Earlier rounds of talks with Alice Wells and Zalmay Khalilzad had taken place in Doha, however the last round of talks, in the third week of December, took place in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia had participated as observers.

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