Experts warn about challenges in meeting US expectations; hail progress in ties

ISLAMABAD:    Foreign policy experts on Wednesday welcomed
progress in ties with the United States made during Prime Minister Imran
Khan’s visit to the United States, but strongly cautioned about the
challenges that lie ahead.

The experts were speaking at a Round-table Conference at Islamabad Policy
Institute (IPI) on ‘PM Imran Khan’s Visit to US: A Review and the Road
Ahead’. This was the second in a series of discussions hosted by the think
tank on US relations. The earlier conference held before PM’s departure to
US had looked at the state of the relations and the expectations from the
trip, where Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had delivered the keynote.

Former ambassador to US Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who has also served in the
past as UN Secretary General’s special representative, said the visit
provided a “good beginning”, but there could be problems ahead if things do
not go as expected by President Trump. He said, besides, dealing with an
“impatient America”, the other fear is that there could be some “false flag
operation” in Occupied Kashmir, which could be blamed on Pakistan, to
neutralize the positivity generated by the trip.

Amb Qazi also called for not attaching too much importance to Trump
disclosure about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him for
mediation on Kashmir.

Executive Director Center for International Strategic Studies Amb Ali
Sarwar Naqvi said that the bonhomie seen during Prime Minister’s visit
would help bolster Pak-US relations. He said that it remains to be seen how
the understandings reached during the visit would play out in the days

Prof (Dr) Mujeeb Afzal, who teaches at Quaid-e-Azam University, while
listing the positive outcomes of the visit for Pakistan said that it would
reduce US hostility towards Pakistan; Islamabad’s contribution to Afghan
peace were acknowledged; and Modi’s dilemma with regards to Kashmir stood
exposed. He, however, feared that environment of distrust in Washington
with respect to Pakistan would continue and delivering the ceasefire in
Afghanistan would be difficult for Islamabad.

“It was a good event, but there was not much of strategic importance in
it,” he contended.

Yasir Mahmood, a foreign policy analyst, maintained that Pakistan’s
economic compulsions forced the country’s leadership to go overboard. He
too mentioned the complications in delivering on US expectations and noted
that President Trump is a “desperate person”. Regarding President Trump’s
Kashmir mediation remarks, he said, it would force Modi to prove his
anti-Pakistan credentials at home, which could add to Indo-Pak tensions.

Policy Analyst Raza Rumi described the trip as a “door opening” in Pak-US
ties. He said re-engaging with US expands Pakistan’s options with respect
to economy and regional security, as America has been a traditional ally.
He said it was important to rebuild US ties because of huge Pakistani
diaspora there, the remittances they send back home, and the fact that
America is one of major export destination for Pakistani products.

Executive Director IPI Prof Sajjad Bokhari, in his remarks, said: “There is
a feeling that whatsoever President Trump offered to Prime Minister Imran
Khan is subject to progress on Afghanistan. It is not unconditional.”
Explaining his contention, he said, the two sides agreed to a mechanism to
monitor the understandings reached during the Summit, but there was no
resumption of high level bilateral dialogue, which could have provided a
platform for a sustainable dialogue.

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