ISLAMABAD – Pakistan and the United States yesterday agreed to move forward but failed to make any big announcement as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met US National Security Advisor John Bolton and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo.
In the meetings held at the White House, Qureshi tried to convince the US leaders that Pak-US cooperation was vital for regional peace in South Asia, officials told The Nation.
There was agreement from the US on the Pak-US cooperation but Washington persisted with its demand of more efforts by Islamabad and ‘fair play,’ added the officials.
The two sides are understood to have discussed the issue of Dr Shakil Afridi, the Central Intelligence Agency agent who helped the US find Osama Bin Laden. There was, however, no immediate official word on it.
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said: “Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi met US National Security Adviser John Bolton at the White House. Pakistan-US bilateral relations and regional situation in South Asia were discussed.” Later, Qureshi met Pompeo.
The foreign minister will also speak at the United States Institute of Peace on the subject of Pakistan’s New Government Change or Continuity in Foreign Policy today (October 3). He is also scheduled to hold meetings with members of US Congress.
Qureshi and Pompeo first met in Islamabad early in September, when the US government approached the new Pakistani government to discuss key issues that have strained decades-old ties between the two countries.
In a briefing about his earlier meeting, Pompeo said that following the election of Prime Minister Imran Khan in July, the US “wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries”.
It was during his Islamabad visit that Pompeo invited the Pakistani foreign minister to visit Washington for further talks.
Before meeting Bolton and Pompeo, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that the purpose of his visit to the US was not to seek aid but build deteriorating ties between the two countries.
“I am not here to talk for dollars and cents, I am not here to seek aid,” he said in a television interview.
The foreign minister said that Pakistan wanted to fix ‘a relationship that went sour – a relationship that has mutually-benefited both sides.’
“We have been allies for a long time, it is time to rebuild that powerful relationship,” Qureshi said.
About Dr Shakil Afridi, the foreign minister said that the issue could be discussed with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Afridi’s future, Qureshi further said, lied not with politics but with the courts.
“We have a legal process. Afridi went through that legal process, he was given a fair chance to plead his case. He was sentenced, he was convicted and is serving a sentence,” Qureshi said, adding, “We expect you to respect our legal process, as we respect yours.”
Qureshi represented Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.
Pak-US ties have been frosty for several months. In January, the US suspended security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. State Department said the US was suspending ‘security assistance’ to Pakistan as the trust level between the two countries drastically declined. Washington said Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan claimed it fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources “which has cost over $ 120 billion in 15 years.” Pakistan said the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
The two countries also imposed tit-for-tat travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats in May – suggesting a new low in their troubled ties.