–US president offers to mediate between Pakistan and India on Kashmir issue
–Lauds Pakistan’s increased cooperation in Afghan peace process, hints at restoring military aid to Pakistan
–White House statement says ‘we [US] are going to ask them [Pakistan] to do more on Afghanistan’
–PM Imran highlights Pakistan’s numerous sacrifices in war against terror
WASHINGTON DC: US President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed Prime Minister Imran Khan to the White House where he offered to broker peace in Kashmir besides lauding Pakistan’s increased cooperation in bringing peace to Afghanistan.
The premier reached the White House at 12pm local time where he was personally welcomed by the US president, who greeted him with a handshake and a pat on the arm. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also accompanied the premier during the visit.
Talking to Imran at the Oval Office, Trump offered to mediate in the Kashmir dispute between nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India.
Referring to his recent conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said that India would be willing to accept US’ mediation of the longstanding dispute.
“I was with Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi two weeks ago. We talked about the subject and he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’. I said where, he said Kashmir, because it has been going on for many, many years.
“I will say that we have a very good relationship with India. I know that your relationship was strained a little bit … maybe a lot,” Trump said.
“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know,” the US president added.
To this, PM Imran said, “US is the most powerful country in the world and it can play a very important role for peace in the subcontinent. Over a billion people at moment are held hostage to Kashmir situation and I believe that President Trump can bring two countries together.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, however, shortly after the remarks by Trump denied that any such request had been made by Prime Minister Modi.
‘PAKISTAN HELPING US A LOT NOW’:
Talking about the Afghan peace process, Trump said that US appreciates Pakistan’s help in its efforts for bringing peace to Afghanistan.
To a question asking him about his own unfavourable views about Pakistan in the past, Trump said: “I don’t think Pakistan respected the United States [in the past]. I don’t think Pakistan respected its [the United States’] presidents. I think Pakistan could have done a tremendous amount with respect to Afghanistan: they didn’t do it — another blame game because they were dealing with the wrong presidents — who knows?
“I think they could have help us a lot in the past, but it doesn’t matter [now]. We have a new leader, he is going be a great leader of Pakistan. We have a sort of new leader here [in the US] … but now I think Pakistan could have done a lot [in the past] but it choose not to just because they didn’t respect US leadership,” he said.
Trump said that he is seeking help from Pakistan to extricate Washington from the war in Afghanistan, saying that he could “win” that war in a week if he wanted to kill millions and wipe off the country.
“I could win that war in a week. Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth… literally in 10 days. I do not want to go that route,” he said, adding, “I do not want to kill 10 million people.”
Instead, Trump said, Pakistan will help “extricate” the US from the long war in Afghanistan the previous administrations got entangled in.
“We have been there for 19 years, and we have acted as policemen, not soldiers,” Trump said, adding he has been withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan.
PM Imran told Trump that the only solution for the Afghan issue is a peace deal with the Taliban and they were much closer to Afghan peace than ever. He hoped that he would be able to persuade the Taliban to continue talks for peace. He highlighted that Pakistan has rendered countless sacrifices in the war against terror.
Appreciating Pakistan’s efforts for peace, Trump said they greatly helped in curbing extremism. He said the US is working with Pakistan to find a way out of the war in Afghanistan. He also hinted at the possibility of restoring aid to Pakistan.
The US president further said that the US is willing to invest in Pakistan and sees great trade relationship between the two countries. He also said that Pakistanis were “very talented people” and he had many Pakistani friends in New York.
He further said that he would love to visit Pakistan if extended an invitation.
Following the meeting, White House released a statement saying that US wants to improve its economic and trade ties with Pakistan. The statement also quoted Trump as telling the premier, “Pakistan has made efforts to facilitate the Afghanistan peace talks, and we are going to ask them to do more.”
Earlier in the day, FM Qureshi, in a post on Twitter, said that the premier will showcase his vision of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ during the visit and would enable both countries to start a new era of bilateral relations. “We have come with a narrative of peace and prosperity in the region,” he added.
Analysts believe that personal chemistry between President Trump, a property developer turned reality TV star, and PM Imran, World Cup-winning captain of the Pakistan cricket team, may be decisive as both came to office after achieving fame away from politics.
The premier is expected to attend two sessions, a small group meeting and an extended meeting, during his maiden visit to the White House since assuming office in August last. The first meeting will be in the Oval Office and the second in the cabinet room.
The talks will mark an effort by the two leaders to reset ties between the two countries. It will expand bilateral cooperation on trade and investment as well as work toward peace in South Asia at large and Afghanistan in particular.
The premier will interact with top American lawmakers and Pakistan Caucus on the Capitol Hill.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razzaq Dawood, Special Assistant on Overseas Zulfikar Bukhari and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, are accompanying the Prime Minister during the US visit.