In a blunt message to the newly appointed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday asked him to “to do more” to rein in the terror groups operating from his country’s soil.
Pompeo delivered the message to Imran Khan when he met the Pakistani Prime Minister in Islamabad on Wednesday.
US withdraws $300 million aid to Pakistan over its failure to take decisive action against militants
Mike Pompeo’s statement comes days after the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad.
Pompeo, the former CIA chief who was on his first visit to Pakistan as the top American diplomat, told Khan that he was “pleased” with his meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier in the day.
But at the same time, Pompeo asked Khan “to do more” at the meeting, which was also attended by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Qureshi, Geo TV reported, citing diplomatic sources.
This was the US’ first high-level dialogue with Pakistan since the new government of Prime Minister Khan assumed office after the July 25 elections and comes days after the US cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups active on its soil.
Talking to reporters travelling with him, Pompeo said, “We made clear to them that – and they agreed – it’s time for us to begin to deliver on our joint commitments, right”.
“So we’ve had lots of times where we’ve talked and made agreements, but we haven’t been able to actually execute those.
“And so there was broad agreement between myself and Foreign Minister Qureshi, as well as with the prime minister, that we need to begin to do things that will begin to actually, on the ground, deliver outcomes so that we can begin to build confidence and trust between the two countries,” he added.
Later, Qureshi told reporters that the Pakistani perspective was presented responsibly to the US delegation.
“We tried to understand their wishes and put forth our own expectations and concerns,” he said. “Ice has been thawed.”
“Today, we felt that we have created an atmosphere to reset our relations, and the lack of trust that was present has been broken which is a very positive development.
“Believe me, if our narrative had not set in with them, the atmosphere would have been different, your questions to me would have been different...,” he said.
“I told them that if you want to proceed with Pakistan, the foundation lies in trust, frank and candid conversation. And until and unless we address concerns from both the sides, progress is not possible,” he said.
Regarding the US delegation’s meeting with Prime Minister Khan, Qureshi said: “During the meeting at the PM House we all sat down and exchanged views. In the past, they used to come, meet the PM and then went to the GHQ (Army headquarters). Today’s meeting sent a clear message that we are all on the same page.”
Qureshi said he decided against raising the US decision to scrap the USD 300 million in aid.
“That decision was taken before this govt took charge. I gave this matter some thought then I decided against raising it because free nations think along the lines of self-sufficiency. We will take a new direction,” he said.
“The meeting has created environment to reset the relations and removed the hiatus,” he added.
The two sides also discussed the Afghan peace process.
Pompeo, who along with US Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen Joseph Dunford had arrived on an official visit to Pakistan, earlier met Qureshi and discussed “bilateral, regional and international issues”.
In a statement, the Foreign Office said Qureshi highlighted that the priority of the new Government was socio-economic development and for the success of people centered agenda and economic reforms, an enabling regional security environment was imperative.
He reaffirmed that improving relations with neighbours was a priority, in an apparent reference to strained ties with India and Afghanistan, which often accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants to conduct cross border attacks.
Qureshi also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue efforts for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“The two sides agreed that present conditions in Afghanistan were conducive to intensifying efforts for a political settlement. They underscored the need for the Taliban to seize the opportunity for talks in response to President Ghani’s offer for an unconditional dialogue,” the statement said.
Pompeo stated that US fully supported the reform agenda of Prime Minister Khan and wished the government success in its implementation, it said, adding that Pompeo conveyed the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The ties between the two sides strained after President Donald Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists.
He had also slammed Pakistan for its support to terror groups and warned Islamabad of consequences if it continues to do so.
In January, Trump suspended all military assistance to Pakistan accusing it of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies and deceit.”
The ties between the two “allies” are passing through a difficult period as the US is upset over what it calls lack of cooperation from Islamabad in eliminating militancy in Afghanistan.
(With PTI inputs)