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Experts Warn About Challenges In Meeting US expectations, Hail Progress In Ties

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ISLAMABAD: Foreign policy experts on Wednesday welcomed progress in ties with the United States made during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the United States, but strongly cautioned about the challenges that lie ahead.

They were speaking at a roundtable conference at Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) on ‘PM Imran Khan’s Visit to US: A Review and the Road Ahead’.

Former ambassador to the US Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who has also served in the past as UN secretary-general’s special representative, said the visit provided a “good beginning”, but there could be problems ahead if things did not go as expected by President Trump.

He said, besides, dealing with an “impatient America”, the other fear was that there could be some “false flag operation” in Occupied Kashmir, which could be blamed on Pakistan, to neutralise the positivity generated by the trip.

Qazi also called for not attaching too much importance to Trump disclosure about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him for mediation on Kashmir.

Center for International Strategic Studies Executive Director Ali Sarwar Naqvi said that the bonhomie seen during the prime minister’s visit would help bolster Pak-US relations.

Prof Dr Mujeeb Afzal, who teaches at Quaid-e-Azam University, said the visit would reduce the US hostility towards Pakistan, Islamabad’s contribution towards the Afghan peace was acknowledged and Modi’s dilemma with regards to Kashmir stood exposed. He, however, feared that environment of distrust in Washington with respect to Pakistan would continue and delivering the ceasefire in Afghanistan would be difficult for Islamabad.

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“It was a good event, but there was not much of strategic importance in it,” he contended.

Yasir Mahmood, a foreign policy analyst, maintained that Pakistan’s economic compulsions forced the country’s leadership to go overboard.  He too mentioned the complications in delivering on US expectations and noted that Trump was a “desperate person”.

Policy Analyst Raza Rumi described the trip as a “door opening” in Pak-US ties. He said re-engaging with the US expanded Pakistan’s options with respect to economy and regional security, as America had been a traditional ally.

He said it was important to rebuild US ties because of huge Pakistani diaspora there, the remittances they send back home, and the fact that America is one of major export destination for Pakistani products.

IPI Executive Director Prof Sajjad Bokhari, in his remarks, said: “There is a feeling that whatsoever President Trump offered to Prime Minister Imran Khan is subject to progress on Afghanistan. It is not unconditional.”

Explaining his contention, he said, the two sides agreed to a mechanism to monitor the understandings reached during the meeting, but there was no resumption of high level bilateral dialogue, which could have provided a platform for a sustainable dialogue.

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