Pakistan PM Imran Khan to meet Trump to reboot ties

Pakistan PM Imran Khan to meet Trump to reboot ties
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Washington: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to hold talks with Donald Trump Monday to reboot bilateral ties that were hit after the US president publicly criticized Islamabad, canceled military aid and asked it to do more to fight terrorism.

Khan, 66, is scheduled to meet President Trump at the White House during which the American leadership is likely to press him to take "decisive and irreversible" actions against terrorist and militant groups operating from Pakistani soil and facilitate peace talks with the Taliban.

The cricketer-turned-politician arrived here on Saturday afternoon aboard a commercial Qatar Airways flight and is staying at the official residence of the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan.

He was welcomed at the airport by his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. A large number of Pakistani Americans also welcomed him. 

Trump, in addition to a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office, will host the visiting delegation over a working lunch at the White House on Monday. Khan is also scheduled to meet lawmakers at the US Capitol Hill.

The relations between Pakistan and the US have remained tense during Trump's tenure. The US president has publicly said that Pakistan has given us "nothing but lies and deceit" and also suspended security and other assistance for backing terror groups. 

Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign had promised to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and he knows it very well that this cannot happen without the co-operation from Pakistan.

The peace process in Afghanistan could very well be the central point of discussion between the two leaders.

Khan will be accompanied by Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. 

According to a senior Trump administration official, Trump and Khan will discuss a range of issues, including counterterrorism, defense, energy, and trade, with the overall goal of creating the conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership between the two countries. 

The purpose of the visit is to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its recent effort to crack down on militants and terrorists within its territory, said the official. 

"We also want to send a message to Pakistan that the door is open to repairing relations and building an enduring partnership if Pakistan changes its policies with regard to terrorists and militants," the official said on Saturday. 

Three of the top advisors of Trump would be missing the working luncheon due to their pre-scheduled travel. They included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton and the Special US Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

During the meeting, Trump would also encourage Pakistan to create opportunities for enhancing regional economic development and connectivity. 

Aparna Pande from the Hudson Institute think-tank said that a meeting between President Trump and Khan would not change "Pakistan's strategic calculus or American grand strategy". 

"Hope is not a policy. For the last five decades, American policy towards Pakistan has centered around convincing Pakistan to change its strategic calculus," she said. 

"The US has offered economic aid, military aid, major non-NATO ally status, even turned a blind eye to Pakistan's nuclear program in the hope that Pakistan would eventually feel secure and thus not look at India as a threat. That hasn't happened," Pande said. 

According to Pande, who is the director of Hudson Institute's Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia, the US interests and Pakistan's interests do not align at any level. 

"The US sees India as an ally and strategic partner and wants an India that plays a greater role in the global arena. Pakistan seeks to keep India tied down and wants parity, she said. 

"The US wants a stable Afghanistan and views the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban as not conducive to its interests, these groups are Pakistan's only allies in Afghanistan," Pande said in response to a question.

- By Lalit K Jha