–Foreign Minister Qureshi says PM Imran successfully delivered Pakistan’s point of view of contentious issues
–Says India’s reaction on Trump’s Kashmir mediation offer was expected as it does not want bilateral talks
WASHINGTON DC: Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said US President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan extended to him by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The foreign minister was addressing a press conference in Washington after three consecutive meetings between the senior leadership of both countries.
“During this tour, the thing that I find unique is that these people have seen the US [Pakistani] community’s closeness to this prime minister. You saw that there were thousands gathered in the Capital One arena.
“Even in this very room, we have seen extremely powerful prime ministers and presidents in the past having to address empty chairs.
“The point is, the people that came there and the love that they expressed — that was a message from overseas Pakistanis. I have never seen this kind of a show before.
“This was a very positive message and we are very happy with it,” Qureshi said.
REVIVAL OF PAK-US RELATIONS:
According to Qureshi, the exchanges in all three sessions were frank and Pakistan’s delegation was able to deliver the message they had come with, “which was to present Pakistan’s point of view, as there had been a long gap [in discussions between the two sides] as an interaction of this level had not taken place in the past five years.
“For five years, the top leadership of the two countries had not met. Our country did not have a foreign minister and for five to six years we did not have any lobbyists appointed here — all of this led to a vacuum in the relationship between the two sides.”
Talking about the seriousness from both countries towards rebuilding the relationship, Qureshi said: “We cannot forget the fact that the relationship between the two countries was such that no door was being opened for us in the time of Alice Wells and Lisa Curtis. We used to ask for time [for discussions] and they were not ready to give that to us. That was the level [we were at] a few months ago, please understand that. Wasn’t our stance the same at the time? Was our Foreign Office not the same at the time?
“From that, we have come this far. I am not saying that this sitting has completely changed the way things were for us. I am saying that a door that was completely shut for us … a possibility has been created for that door to be opened. We have come here in all seriousness to rebuild this relationship. The stiffness that once existed in our relationship has been lessened.
Speaking on the trade front, the foreign minister said: “Interactions between two countries are heavily based on economic ties, which is why it is important that we now pay attention to economic diplomacy too — like I mentioned yesterday during my interaction with the investors.
“The world looks at economics and looks for ways to cater to its own economic needs, so we will try that we also move forward in that direction.”
When asked about US economic assistance which had been withdrawn in recent times, Qureshi said: “The first thing that we need to see is why the [economic] programmes had stopped. It was because of the trust deficit that had been built between the two countries.
“Now that we are making an effort to curb that deficit, we can hope that those programmes will be reinstated.”
Speaking of the FATF and the pressure being exerted on Pakistan, Qureshi said: “The FATF’s greatest focus is on money laundering. Prime Minister Imran Khan has openly said that the plight of South Asian countries lies in the fact that the elite class their takes the money that the country is making and the foreign assistance it gets and misuses it. They send their money out of the country through money laundering.
“America needs to help us out, keep a check on money laundering. Until that happens, the common man in third world countries will continue to suffer and poverty will remain on the rise there. These are words used by the prime minister himself today. He made these comments in today’s sitting. This is his commitment, as far as money laundering is concerned.
“The other thing is terror financing. You all know what our stance is on that, we have paid a hefty price for it. We make very clear cut statements in this regard today. We have not come here to lie, nor have we come here to make promises that we cannot keep. There is no point in promising something that you cannot deliver on — that is what we have been doing in the past. We as a government will not promise that which we cannot deliver.
“That said, we want progress in both these things (against money laundering and terror financing). I don’t know how much political will the previous governments had in these matters, but one thing is sure, the current government has a very strong will to move forward in these matters — and we have taken concrete measures in this regard. We even have told everyone about the measures we have taken.
“However, there are limitations, but we are trying to get past those. Earlier, there was neither will nor capacity in this regard — now there is will and capacity is being built, so we believe there will be progress in this regard.”
INDIA’S REACTION TO KASHMIR MEDIATION:
Speaking of India’s reaction to President Trump’s offer to mediate between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, Qureshi said:
“Of course India has reacted this way, what else can we expect? They are hardly going to blow trumpets on the offer. India has always reacted this way, they do not want any sort of interference on the Kashmir matter.
“They always say that they want bilateral talks on Kashmir, then they never come to the table for these talks. They do not want mediation and they do not want bilateral talks.
“Pakistan’s stance on the matter is very simple: we want peace, we want peace efforts, we believe that the only solution to the problem is through talks.”
Speaking of the current situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts to restore peace in its own tribal areas, Qureshi said:
“We all saw that right before the current [Pakistan] government elected, a new US policy was announced and in it, Pakistan was primarily blamed for the situation in Afghanistan. Our point of view is completely opposite to that.
“We believe that the reasons for the Afghan situation are manifold. The internal situation within Pakistan plays a great role in their regional situation. Furthermore, we kept saying and now the world has seen that Pakistan has made huge efforts on our side of the border and cleansed our own areas. We have restored peace there and started reconstruction there, because of which, a number of people that had to repatriate from there have started returning to their homes.
“The latest example [of peace and normalcy] there is the election that took place in the tribal belt a couple of days ago. The best thing about those elections was that they were completely peaceful, no untoward incident was reported there. The second great thing about those elections was that a large number of people took part in the voting process there — including a lot of women. Thirdly, the results of those elections were accepted by everyone.”