Qureshi says US has found new partner in shape of India
Warns regarding Taliban regaining control in Afghanistan
NEW YORK: Foreign Minister (FM) Shah Mahmood Qureshi the other day said that Pakistan is trying to reconnect with the United States, its old ally, as Washington’s priorities seem to have changed in the region where it has forged a strategic relationship with India
“You can have new friends, but why lose old friends,” he posed the question at a large gathering of American academics, analysts, international affairs students and journalists at Asia Society in New York which was moderated by a former State Department official Vali Nasr, and currently a professor at John Hopkins University.
The foreign minister said that Pakistan wants peace in the region, but on the other hand, India is trying to escape from the dialogue.
The US, he added, could play a role in resolving the outstanding disputes between Pakistan and India.
Qureshi also said Pakistan wants to play a positive role in Afghanistan, but it is not only responsibility that has to be shared with others.
Responding to question about the state of Pakistan-US relations, he said, “I am here to reconnect.”
He said he is going to meet US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington on October 2, pointing out that the decision to hold these follow-up talks was taken during the US top diplomat’s visit to Islamabad earlier this month.
During Pompeo’s visit to Pakistan, he said there was a good exchange of views between the two sides on matters of mutual concern.
Pompeo interacted with the country’s civil and military leadership and found them on the same page, he stated.
He said that that that US has changed its priorities and has found a new friend in the region in shape of India but he urged US to value long-standing friendship with Pakistan.
“Pakistan and the US cannot do without each other,” the minister added.
“We need to see how to manage this new relationship with the US and expectations,” Qureshi said, stressing the need for strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, and not just connect with each other over Afghanistan. Currently, he remarked, “The road to Washington is via Kabul.”
The foreign minister discussed at length Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours, Afghanistan and India, ties with the US, and the country’s relationship with China, as well as its role in President Xi Jinping’s One Belt and One Road Initiative.
He said the Trump administration has the right to choose new partners.
“Today India is their strategic partner. But let me remind you that whenever US stood with Pakistan, it benefitted,” he added, referring to the Cold War era and Pakistan’s vital contribution in defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and also standing with Washington in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Qureshi, however, expressed concerns that the Taliban are regaining foothold in Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan had lost the most in the war against terrorism. “We have lost over 70,000 lives for this cause,” he added.
In response to a question about maintaining a balance while keep strong bilateral ties with the US and China, Qureshi said China understood the history of Pakistan’s relationship with the US and had no issues regarding this.
Commenting on the Pakistan-India ties, he said he is disappointed by India’s reaction to the peace gestures from Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Qureshi, however, stressed that Pakistan was still ready for talks. “Whenever you are ready, Pakistan will not shy away,” he said.
The foreign minister said an honest and candid approach would be adopted by the new government of Imran Khan when it comes to the ties with Afghanistan. The civil and military leadership of Pakistan, he said, are on the same page to address all issues concerning the nation after a long time.
“However, we will be careful before committing to the US administration because disappointments come when promises are not met,” he stated.