Washington, October 03: The US is unlikely to revoke the suspension of aid to Pakistan until it sees substantial progress against terrorists and their safe havens, the Trump administration has told Islamabad as top officials of the two countries met here to try to reset their strained ties.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, during their separate meetings with Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, are understood to have told him that in its assessment, the US does not see any changes on the ground when it comes to taking action against terrorists operating from the Pakistani soil.
Given Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban, the Trump administration also wants it to bring them to the negotiating table to end the nearly 17-year-long strife. The meeting between Qureshi and Pompeo is understood to have lasted for 20 minutes at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department. The White House normally does not issue a readout of the meeting that its National Security Advisor has with foreign leaders. Qureshi and Pompeo did appear for a hand-shake photo op before the meeting.
According to informed sources familiar with the development, the US side is upset because of Qureshi’s faux pas about a handshake he had with President Donald Trump during a luncheon in New York, which he described to the media as a meeting. The situation in war-torn Afghanistan dominated the separate meetings Qureshi held with Bolton and Pompeo. Qureshi met Bolton for 40 minutes at the White House before heading to the State Department for another meeting with Pompeo. The second meeting was also attended by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Ambassador Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.
In a readout, the Embassy of Pakistan here said Qureshi had a wide range of discussions with both Pompeo and Bolton which included among others bilateral and regional issues including Pakistan’s strained relations with India. Qureshi said that close engagement between Pakistan and the US had always been mutually beneficial and a factor for stability in South Asia. He stressed that, going forward, a broad-based and structured framework for dialogue would best serve the two countries’ shared interests, the statement said.
Noting that Pakistan and the US share a common desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region at large, Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s support for a political settlement in Afghanistan, saying use of force had failed to deliver results. Qureshi told Pompeo that "peace in South Asia, which was a common goal for both the US and Pakistan, would remain elusive until all disputes, including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, are resolved".
Pompeo, according to the embassy statement, said the US looked forward to working with the new Government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan in implementing its reform agenda. "In the context of achieving stability in South Asia, Qureshi briefed his US interlocutor about India’s aggressive posturing in the region.
"Qureshi underscored that, on its part, Pakistan remained committed to engaging India in a comprehensive peace dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute," the statement added. Pompeo, who was in Islamabad on September 5 on his first visit to Pakistan as the top American diplomat, had met Prime Minister Imran Khan and pressed him to take "sustained and decisive measures" against terrorists threatening the regional peace and stability.
The ties between the two countries strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to "agents of chaos" that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has "much to lose" by harbouring terrorists. Last month, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups active on its soil.