Pompeo upbeat on ‘reset’ with Pakistan after meeting new PM Khan, report Reuters
SEP 5, 2018 (Updated): Senior US and Pakistani officials met in capital Islamabad today to reset bilateral relations which has seen a double down due to gaps in their views on Afghanistan peace and reconciliation process. This was the first high level dialogue after US-Pak communication neared complete breakdown during the last government’s tenure.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and a four-member delegation first met FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his team followed by meeting with PM Imran Khan at PM House.
Qureshi, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar were present in the PM’s meeting with the US delegation.
Pompeo and Dunford did not visit GHQ before or after — the very first high-level visit from Washington since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government assumed office, sending a message that Pakistani thought-leaders stand united to protect its supreme nation interests and would only step forward as long as there is trust, mutual respect and common understanding with the US on Afghanistan peace process.
“During the meeting at the PM House we all sat down and exchanged views. In the past, they used to come, meet the PM separately and then visit the GHQ. However, today’s meeting sent a clear message that we are all on the same page.”
Qureshi added: “Ice has been thawed…today we felt that we have created an atmosphere to reset our relations, and the lack of trust that was present has been broken which is a very positive development.”
A new milestone was also achieved today: Pakistan team did not raise the issue of reimbursement for counter-terrorism support — days earlier the Trump administration withdrew $300 million owed to Pakistan. Earlier this year $500 million was withheld for a total amount of $800 million reimbursement suspended from the Coalition Support Fund.
The foreign minister said that he decided against raising the US decision to scrap the $300m to Pakistan.
“This wasn’t a new decision,” he said. “That decision was taken before this government took charge. I gave this matter some thought then I decided against raising it because free nations think along the lines of self-sufficiency. We will take a new direction.”
Once the $300m issue became a somewhat non-issue (at this stage) during the meetings, following buzzwords stood out in media reports:
–“leave the past behind”, Pompeo said
–“trust, mutual interests in bilateral relations,” FM Qureshi said
–“national interest supreme,” Qureshi said
–“We need Pakistan,” Pompeo said
–“We need their (Pakistan) help,” Pompeo said
–“Assistance in reconciliation,” Pompeo said
–“common goals, common understanding,” both sides said
–” Aid,” Pompeo said
Earlier, on board flight to Islamabad, Pompeo said Pakistan’s assistance and help to resolve issues related to stability in Afghanistan was the crucial. Pompeo said that the eventual result of working together could mean the aid to Pakistan could revive. “If that arises again, I am confident we’ll present to the US president the rationale for that, and then something like that might make sense,” the US secretary of state said.
“We need Pakistan to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan,” he said and mentioned General Nicholson and General Miller having the same opinion on the issue.
Pakistanis have “important interests, security interests in Afghanistan to make sure they get the issues at their border right, and we need their help”, Pompeo said.
He was also hopeful that his trip could convince the new government in Pakistan to provide the assistance for reconciliation in Afghanistan.
“So first stop – Pakistan. New leader there, wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries,” he said.
“There are lot of challenges between our two nations for sure but we’re hopeful that with the new leadership that we can find common ground and we can begin to work on some of our shared problems together,” added Pompeo.
“Look, I think there is a new government this time, most of this took place long before the prime minister was in power and I hope we can turn the page and begin to make progress. But there are real expectations,” he said.
“I’m hopeful we can convince them to provide that assistance,” he continued, adding that in his conversations with Imran, they had agreed that peace in Afghanistan was a “shared goal.” Pompeo also held out the possibility the military aid could be restored under the right circumstances.
Earlier this week, FM Qureshi avoided a knee-jerk reaction. To the Pentagon suspension of the Coalition Support Fund, he said the amount was not aid, but a reimbursements of expenses incurred in the fight against terrorism.
Pompeo’s conciliatory remarks toward Pakistan came days after Washington confirmed plans to cancel $300 million over Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of American strategy in the region.
“Ice has been thawed,” the foreign minister said. “Today we felt that we have created an atmosphere to reset our relations, and the lack of trust that was present has been broken which is a very positive development.
“Believe me, if our narrative had not set in with them, the atmosphere would have been different, your questions to me would have been different and the nature of Pompeo’s tweet before leaving Pakistan would have been different.