GP Insights

GP Insights # 110, 27 July 2019

Imran Khan meets Trump, raising hopes of a US-Pak reset
Abigail Miriam Fernandez

What happened?
On 22 July 2019, Imran Khan held his first face to face meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington DC. Lieutenant-General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan's military chief, accompanied the PM, along with ISIS chief Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed. These meetings were a three-day state visit that comes amid strained relations between the two countries. 

The two leaders discussed several issues starting with how Pakistan would help the US to extricate troops from Afghanistan through political negotiations. Trump wants Pakistan to help initiate a peace deal with the Taliban. Further, they deliberated on economic matters. The US is one of the largest investors in Pakistan; with the grave financial situation that Pakistan is facing today, Imran Khan needs US support. Trump also offered his service to mediate in the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Khan and his delegation also met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US congressional leaders, and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

What is the background?
Relations between the two countries have been strained ever since Trump assumed office in 2017. Trump administration took a hard stance and accused Pakistan of its support to militants and a few other issues that caused mistrust in the relation. 

The two heads of state over the years have exchanged opposing views via Twitter. However, efforts were taken to reset the relationship between the two countries.

What does it mean?
First, did both sides receive a positive outcome from this visit? At this stage it could be too soon to tell if it’s a positive outcome. Washington’s aim is to help use Khan’s visit as a means to get Pakistan to do even more on the Afghanistan for which they did get an adequate response. Islamabad hoped for the recognition for the assistance it has given to the US.  This was seen from the praises and kind words from many top US officials. 

Second, what will be the next steps when it comes to the Taliban? Although the two sides have decided to up the game on Taliban, Pakistan has a difficult task ahead of itself, as it may not be so easy to convince the Taliban to the demands that the US wants. However, Pakistan appears to be invested in helping reach a successful peace process in Afghanistan, mainly because of their vested interests. 

Thirdly, what significance does Pakistan's military and intelligence chiefs as part of these meetings have? The Pakistan-US relationship has an important security angle to it. Thus, having Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership shows that there was an agreement of views on commitments by Pakistan. 

Lastly, when it comes to the Kashmir offer, this is a much larger issue that a side comment such as this is not going to make much of an impact. In all it does seems that Khan and Trump have built a comfortable space to work in. However, this space is still not free from challenges such as Afghanistan, terrorism, India, and China will all have a significant impact on the relation

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