ISLAMABAD - Pakistan said Tuesday its cooperation in facilitating ongoing peace talks between the United States and the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan has led to a “gradual warming up” in Islamabad’s turbulent relationship with Washington.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the remarks just days before Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit Washington for his first meeting with President Donald Trump.
Qureshi told a seminar Khan’s visit to the U.S. is aimed at seeking a “broader” bilateral engagement, although he acknowledged the Afghan peace process will figure prominently at the White House meeting set for July 22. He said that Trump’s invitation to Khan underscored the “inherent importance of the relationship” for both the countries.
“It will, therefore, be appropriate to work for broader engagement from Afghanistan to bilateral issues, economic and trade cooperation to peace and stability in South Asia,” Qureshi stressed.
It is widely believed that Trump’s invitation to Khan stemmed from recent “substantial” progress in months-long peace negotiations between the U.S. and representatives of the Afghan Taliban to find a political settlement to the 18-year-old Afghan war, the longest U.S. foreign military intervention.
Islamabad takes credited for arranging the U.S.-Taliban talks that started nearly a year ago.
“Pakistan has welcomed President Trump’s farsighted decision to pursue a political solution in Afghanistan, which in fact was an endorsement of our own position espoused for a long time,” Qureshi told a seminar in Islamabad.
Qureshi insisted his government has been facilitating the U.S.-Taliban talks in “good faith” and as a “shared responsibility” to promote regional peace and security.
“The convergence in Pakistan and U.S. polices on Afghanistan has rekindled hope for resolution of the protracted Afghan conflict that has only brought misery and despondency to the region,” the foreign minister stressed.
Qureshi said that besides the “one-on-one” interaction between Trump and Khan, “there will be a restrictive meeting” where the Pakistani political and military leadership will engage with U.S. counterparts before the extended delegation-level talks are held.
Pakistani military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the head of the country’s spy agency will both accompany Khan during the visit, officials said.
Pakistan’s usually rollercoaster relations with the U.S. had plunged to historic lows since Trump took office in 2017 and suspended all military assistance to the country.
The American president has accused Islamabad of harboring militant groups U.S. forces are fighting in Afghanistan, despite having received billions of dollars in assistance, saying Pakistan has given Washington "nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”
Pakistan rejects the charges and maintains it has suffered tens of thousands of civilian and military casualties as well as and billions of dollars in losses to the national economy because of a militant backlash for joining the U.S. “war on terror.”
Qureshi also Tuesday hailed an active role the U.S. played in defusing Pakistan's tensions with rival India in February when the two nuclear-armed neighboring countries came close to another war over the disputed Kashmir region.
“We hope that the leadership of the two countries in Washington can agree on the imperative of resuming a sustained and result-oriented dialogue between Pakistan and India aimed at peacefully resolving all disputes. We are confident that this visit will help in ushering an era of stability and prosperity in South Asia and the broader region."