Pakistan seeks to diversify its relationship with US


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has sought to diversify its relationship with the United States with particular focus on enhanced economic and trade cooperation as well as people-to-people contacts.

Ambassador Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs visited Islamabad on Tuesday and called on Finance Minister Asad Umar. She also held delegation level talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal.

Delegation level talks were led by Additional Secretary (America) Aftab Khokher from the Pakistan side, he said, adding that senior officials from Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence also attended the meeting.

However, no meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was scheduled. Sources said that a meeting between Ambassador Wells and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua was also not scheduled as the former is still in China being part of the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s delegation during his visit.

Responding to a question about the visit of the top US diplomat, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news briefing that Ambassador Wells was received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the appropriate level, adding that “very candid” discussions were held during the meeting.

He said that the two sides discussed various aspects of the bilateral relations, adding that Ambassador Wells mentioned that for enhanced trade between the two countries, top US authorities will arrive here for further discussions in near future.

He said that a deputy assistant secretary of state will also be accompanying the US delegation who would also hold discussions on energy cooperation. “There was a stalemate in the bilateral talks between Pakistan and the US while there was the only focus on Afghanistan. But we conveyed that our relationship is not only centred to Afghanistan, of course, it is an important facts, but it [Afghanistan] is one component of the relationship,” he added.

He said that now talks with the US are being held on trade, energy and peace and reconciliation process. He said that the US side shared with their Pakistani counterparts that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has constituted an advisory council to reach out to the Taliban to advance the peace process.

The foreign minister further stated that the US side also offered to help resolve the water issues with Afghanistan. “It’s a good development and we believe that we share waters with Afghanistan just we do with India. So, there are issues with Afghanistan that need to be resolved and the US has expressed its readiness to play its role in resolving the issues,” he added.

Giving further details of the visit, the Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement that the meeting took stock of the understanding reached between Foreign Minister Qureshi and Secretary Pompeo to rebuild the relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

“Pakistani side emphasised the need to diversify the relationship with particular focus on enhanced economic and trade cooperation and people to people contacts,” the spokesperson said.

Furthermore, evolving regional situation and peace and stability in Afghanistan were also discussed, he said, adding that the US delegation appreciated the need to strengthen the bilateral relationship with Pakistan which is an important country of the region.

“The two sides agreed to continue efforts to promote the shared objectives of peace and stability in the region and diversify bilateral relationship,” he added.