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Imran Khan’s maiden trip to US

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Rayees Masroor

Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan is on his maiden visit to the United States and the three day visit that began on July 20 would include a first face-to-face meeting between Mr Khan and the US president Donald Trump. The invitation suggests that the two countries are desperately trying to reset the acrimonious relationship between Washington and the Islamabad particularly in view of the ties between Pakistan and the US that have eroded further when Trump in his Jan 01 tweet accused Islamabad of harboring terrorists on its soil and ditching America in the ‘War against Terror’.

Khan, however, responded in equal terms and minced no words in accusing US for making Pakistan a scapegoat in its war and in hiding its failures. As such the ongoing engagement between the two countries is seen as a major development in a bid to mend the bilateral ties. Terrorism would be a major issue on the agenda as the two leaders meet.

As was done on earlier occasions Pakistan, this time also, is cracking the whip on the militant organizations and has arrested Hafiz Saeed just before the premier’s visit to the America. Pakistan would like to milk it as much as possible and hope that the United States will reinstate some of the coalition support funds that were suspended by the Trump Administration. The Arrest of Hafiz Saeed would also be used to answer the questions coming from the Indian side.

Prime Minister Khan will make every effort in trying to convince the Americans that Pakistan has been sincere in fighting against terrorism and he may succeed in doing so because America knows that any possibility of peace in Afghanistan rests upon the shoulders of Pakistan. The delegation travelling with Khan also includes military and intelligence officers which clearly indicates that the US-Pak security relations would be a top priority.

During the talks, the case of Shakeel Afridi and CPEC may also come up for the discussion. The Afghanistan is however going to be a key issue for debate between the two especially during the meeting between the two heads of the states. Pakistan has been quite for some time facilitating the talks between the US and the Taliban. Shah Mehmood Qureshi recently, in a TV interview, acknowledged the role his country was playing in the negotiations between the Taliban and the Americans, stressing that it remains a shared responsibility.

Just a few days ago Pakistan scored a major diplomatic victory by getting an invitation from the US, China and Russia to help to find a peaceful Resolution to the Afghan problem. The request to Pakistan to join the Afghan peace talks came after the third round of US- China-Russia consultations on Afghanistan in Beijing on July 10. Pakistan side would also raise its apprehensions on Indian investment in Afghanistan. The two south Asian neighbours are pushing hard to play major role in Afghanistan as it remains a major strategic point and the two countries can’t ignore the developments in the region. While Pakistan has always been critical of the Indian involvement in Afghanistan, India has been accusing Islamabad of helping the Taliban and trying to destabilise Afghan government.

It is also believed that Pakistani delegation will be lobbying to resume the military training programmes and seek permission to purchase parts for F-16 jets. They are also expected to seek US help in Being removed from the grey list of the financial action task force (FATF) and in accessing more loans to boost troubled Pakistan economy. The visit is also significant for the Imran Khan government as it is facing an aggressive opposition within the country against inflation and failure to deliver on jobs and prosperity. The US invitation would help the PTI government in deflecting some pressure from the opposition parties and the media as the Pak foreign minister has already claimed the development as a march forward from ‘isolation to invitation’. For some analysts it is certainly a diplomatic victory for Pakistan but a lot would dependent on the major outcomes of the visit.

The writer is a columnist and political science counselor at  IGNOU and can be mailed @ [email protected]

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