Challenges, Opportunities For Pakistan’s New Ambassador to US

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PKONWEB Report (Washington) — Dr Asad Majeed, until recently Pakistan’s ambassador in Tokyo, replaces Ali Jehangir Siddiqui as envoy to US amid series of challenges laced with opportunities for resetting the relationship between the two countries which had parked itself on a cul-de-sac after President Donald Trump’s 2018 New Year eve caustic tweet.

First and foremost on Mr. Majeed’s plate would be exploring the possibility of an Imran-Trump meeting as he arrives in Washington on Monday to take charge of the effort to renew once close relationship between the United States and Pakistan.

Trump on January 2 expressed his desire to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan for talks on US-led efforts to jump-start the Afghan peace process. “I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakis­tan [and] we will be doing that in not-too-distant future,” he said.

Efforts are ongoing to exploring the possibility of bringing PM Khan to Washington for a White House meeting with the US President who wrote to him last November seeking help in resolving Afghanistan imbroglio by bringing the Taliban to the peace talks table.

The move came weeks after PM Khan said Pakistan will only partner with the US for peace in the 17-year war torn country, and not for war. He also sought from Washington an equitable relationship based on mutual trust–a plank that was amiss since Pakistan entered in counterterrorism partnership post 9/11.

Trump has now decided to give political solution as proposed by Islamabad for Afghanistan a chance while keeping military option on the table–the new US general in Afghanistan Gen. Austin Miller said in November, “This is not going to be won militarily,” Miller told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “This is going to a political solution.”

The Taliban and the US have already held several meetings but the next round, scheduled in Saudi Arabia later this month, is still being finalized with the Taliban insisting the talks be held in Qatar.

For the new envoy, economic diplomacy is expected to take the front-burner–an effort which was jump-started by his predecessor.

Billionaire Bill Gates on Tuesday said his multinational technology company, Microsoft Corporation, could explore investment opportunities in Pakistan.

Gates expressed the desire in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Imran Khan by Dr Christopher Elias, President of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Division, in a meeting on Tuesday.

Also, the world’s largest oil and gas exploration company Exon Mobil–headquartered in the US–has practically entered Pakistan for offshore drilling.

The oil and gas giant resumed operations in Pakistan in November this year after a hiatus of 27 years.

Exxon Mobil’s LNG Market Development Chairperson Emma Cochrane held a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 28 regarding the project amid Trump energy policy which including pushing LNG export worldwide.

Mr. Majeed is expected to be part of the ongoing efforts for more business-to-business and people-to-people outreach initiatives while government level interactions are also expected to continue on Afghanistan peace.

Then there is upcoming negotiations with the Washington-based IMF for a $8 to $12 billion loan which PM Khan’s government seeks in months ahead.

Also important for the new envoy would be reviving Pakistanis’ lobbies on the Hill that once played an effective role in promoting bilateral ties but have become ineffective due to internal disputes and lack of interest. Ambassador Siddiqui did make some efforts to revive this tradition but he could only do so much in his brief tenure.

Siddiqui was sent by the PML-N government days before its departure but stayed here for more than seven months from May 9 to Dec 25, 2018.

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