Pakistan-US relationship to be strengthened: FM

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has hoped that relationships between Pakistan and the United States will be strengthened under the new US Administration.

In an interview with a foreign news channel, he said Pakistan is ready to work with the new administration regarding Afghan peace process.

Highlighting the role of Pakistan in facilitating peace process in Afghanistan, he said the new US Administration should work to further accelerate the peace efforts.

The Minister noted that the spoilers of peace are responsible for recent violent activities in Afghanistan.

He stressed the need to move forward on intra-Afghan negotiations and asked Afghan leadership to lead these talks.

Former US President Donald Trump accelerated a timeline for troop withdrawal agreed with the Taliban in February last year, as the Biden administration comes in with 2,500 US soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan.

Under last year’s historic deal, all US troops are due to leave Afghanistan by April, but the Pentagon recently hinted it could delay that if violence does not abate.

“We are concerned because we feel violence can vitiate the climate,” Qureshi added.

“Pakistan has done a lot, we have really bent backward to create an environment to facilitate the peace process,” he said while blaming “spoilers” for the violence, identifying them as internal Afghan players “who have benefited from the war economy”.

Qureshi said, “there are elements from outside who do not share our vision, which is a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan.”

“It is a shared responsibility to begin with but the ultimate responsibility is with the Afghan leadership. It’s their country, it’s their future,” he said.

The FM said, “Our approach, thinking, objectives and shared visions are very much in line with the priorities of the new administration. And that convergence can be built further.”

Qureshi also called on the US not to view Pakistan’s close ties with China – an economic and political rival to the US – as a “zero-sum game”.

“They have to understand that our relationship with China is not a zero-sum game for them,” he said, making note of China’s $60 billion investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. “They (the US) should come, compete and invest.”

He added that Pakistan was willing to act as a mediator between China and the US, a role it played in 1972 when it facilitated talks to set up a historic visit to Beijing by then-President Richard Nixon. Pakistan traditionally has had the opportunity.