US offers to ‘reset’ ties if Pakistan commits to rein in terror groups
Offer comes during US secretary of state Pompeo’s talks with PM Imran Khan, foreign minister Qureshi
New Delhi: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Wednesday offered to “reset” ties with Pakistan, strained due to its support to terrorist groups based on its soil, in return for an implicit commitment to rein in these terrorist.
The offer came during meetings with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Pompeo, who flew in for a short visit before heading to New Delhi, also discussed Washington’s decision to cancel $300 million in military aid to Pakistan. This took place during the meeting with Imran Khan at which Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was also present, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.
Another Pakistani news report cited foreign minister Qureshi as saying that the meeting with Pompeo was “excellent” while a Geo TV report said that Pakistan had told the US that mutual interests of both the countries need to be considered in bilateral relations.
Qureshi said Pomepo’s visit ended positively as he was extended an invitation to visit Washington. “It was a good meeting with similar results … we met, listened, understood, talked and then decided on a next meeting,” he told reporters.
“They agreed that the blame and shame game is not good; it only worsens the atmosphere. Yes we have different issues and we will be thinking differently but we also share similar objectives. I felt that today’s meeting has set the stage to reset the environment for these bilateral relations.”
This is the first high-level dialogue between the two countries since Imran Khan took over as prime minister after the 25 July elections.
Talking to reporters travelling with him before landing in Pakistan, Pompeo said: “The very reason for this trip is to try and articulate what it is our expectation is, the things that they can do, the things that they expect us to do, and see if we can’t find a path forward together.” He said he wanted to meet Khan at the beginning of his tenure in an effort to “reset the relationship” between the two countries. “We’re hopeful that with the new leadership that we can find common ground and begin to work on some of our shared problems together. They have expressed good-faith intention to do so,” he added.
According to unnamed officials cited by news agency PTI, the situation in Afghanistan, talks with the Taliban, action against the Haqqani Network and other militant groups, issue of suspension of US aid and other bilateral and regional issues were the subjects on the table for talks.
Almost coinciding with Pompeo’s visit to Pakistan, the Taliban terrorist group announced the death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the Haqqani militant network and seen as the mastermind of the some of the deadliest attacks of the Afghan war, prompting analysts to question the timing of the announcement.
“Is it striking that the death of the leader of the terror group at the heart of US-Pakistan tensions is announced right on the eve of Mike Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad? Oh, yes. That said, Jalaluddin Haqqani had been ill for a long time. The timing could be purely coincidental,” said Micheal Kugelman, an analyst at the Washington-based Wilson Center in a Twitter post.
Pompeo was accompanied by US chairman of the joint chief of staff General Joseph Dunford during his talks with foreign minister Qureshi who has previously called for a reworking of ties with the US so that relations are based on “mutual respect.”
Qureshi and Pompeo discussed "bilateral, regional and international issues" in the meeting that lasted for about 40 minutes, Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said.
"FM Qureshi underscores the need to reset bilateral ties on basis of mutual trust and respect. Safeguarding Pakistan's national interests will remain supreme priority," Faisal said in a Twitter post.
The Trump administration’s cancellation of $300 million in military aid to Pakistan is the latest controversy to hit Islamabad's troubled relationship with Washington.
The two sides earlier publicly differed over what was discussed during a phone call between Pompeo and Khan last month with the US side stating that Pompeo had urged Pakistan to take decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan while Pakistan called the statement factually incorrect.