The US visit and the Afghan irritant By DR AHMAD RASHID MALIK

A change has been expected between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump when they will meet each other later this month. It is a rare visit between leaders of the sometimes prickly allies. Khan will undertake his visit to the USA on July 20. The focus of the visit will be to refresh the bilateral relationship and set the basis for a new relationship free of coercion and doubt.
The US claims in all its allegations against Islamabad that it is creating an uncongenial situation for the US opposition in Afghanistan and refuses to listen to the USA. Islamabad, however, thinks differently. Mr Khan, since assuming power, did not think on the lines the USA does.
Rather Islamabad thinks of the unmatched sacrifices the country has made in Afghanistan. The announcement comes as the USA is seeking Pakistan’s help in finding a way out of neighbouring Afghanistan, where US forces are now in their 18th year of war. This needs to be ended and a durable peace to be built in Afghanistan.
The relations between the USA and Pakistan have been bumpy and both nations do not trust each other. Pakistan has to counter the Indian influence in Afghanistan. For this it has built an extra safeguard. Often harsh language about the other is used by both sides in the USA and Pakistan.
The USA has repeatedly asked Pakistan to end its support to the militant organisations operating from within its territory against it and Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, denies all such charges and rather blames the USA and India for all such troubles in Afghanistan and this blame-game continues
President Trump needs to get a policy on Afghanistan akin to US needs. Better Pakistan-USA relations are needed inside Afghanistan to promote regional peace and tranquillity. Normalisation in Afghanistan is a sine qua non for Pakistan, and to make useful relations with Pakistan for the USA.
If North Korea could make a signal to the USA for peace, why cNNOT such a message also be heralded in South Asia? The hope is that the Qatar talks on Afghanistan could yield a positive outcome and promote a peace in South Asia. Both Taliban and US negotiators say they have come close to finalising a draft text that could pave the way for ending the longest overseas US military intervention.
For negotiations, peace talks between President Trump and Mr Khan could be on the single issue of Afghanistan and help resolve the long-standing dispute between their two countries. If the Taliban agree on a ceasefire in Afghanistan, nothing else could be as precious. Khan has his own strategy of not being involved in a war in Afghanistan; Trump believes he will be leaving Afghanistan after peace is won and future US interest are secured.
The US State Department announced that the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) is a terrorist organisation for targeting security forces and civilians in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan. Islamabad promptly hailed the move, which analysts say could serve as a “relevant precursor” to turn around bilateral ties in the wake of the upcoming meeting. This is crux of the problem and hopefully a better relationship will be built between them.
For Mr Khan, his US visit would be important because it would pave the way for future cooperation between the two governments. This will be his maiden trip to the USA as Prime Minister of Pakistan where he would be talking to President Trump face-to-face. This meeting was planned for June, but the budget and some other domestic engagements kept Khan busy at home. He will discuss all regional issues including the Afghan issue. At this stage, relations between Pakistan and the USA have entered a decisive phase and both are likely to stress on Afghanistan and peace building there.
Relations between Pakistan and the USA have remained strained since President Trump took charge of the White House. President Trump, highly critical of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and overall in the War on Terror, suspended security and other assistance to Pakistan. He held Pakistan responsible for all ills in Afghanistan.
But now the things are changed and President Trump hopes to cultivate bit friendly relations with Pakistan. However, nothing final can be said of their ties. It is hoped the visit would stress on removing some pertinent misgivings between them and the ‘lies and deceit’ accusations would stop, and they would build a better relationship between them for future course of action between the two countries. It is to be hoped that the meeting would change the often-acrimonious ties between the two countries.
The USA has repeatedly asked Pakistan to end its support to the militant organisations operating from within its territory against it and Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, denies all such charges and rather blames the USA and India for all such troubles in Afghanistan and this blame-game continues.
The hope in Washington is that such a blame game would be arrested and a new confidence be built, giving each other an important role to play in Afghanistan without interfering in Afghan affairs. Any independent and popular Government in Afghanistan could be having the capacity to tackle its national problems and build a lasting peace inside the country.
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