Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met with United States President Donald Trump in New York yesterday, where the diplomat is representing Pakistan at the 73rd UN General Assembly session.
According to reports, the meeting was smooth sailing with Qureshi noting that the attitude of the US president was favorable. Talking to the PTV, Qureshi said that President Trump, during an informal meeting at a luncheon in New York, extended good wishes for Prime Minister Imran Khan. Qureshi also met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The minister urged Trump on the need to “rephrase the historic relations between Pakistan and the US”
Simultaneously, and not directly pertinent to the case of Pakistan perhaps, Trump also made an announcement about aid.
The superpower president said that the US will only be extending the hand of aid to their friends. He said, “We will examine what is working, what is not working, and whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart”. Amongst issues, he says the US is displeased with are the OPEC oil cartel, China’s trade policies, and the International Criminal Court.
Although he did not mention Pakistan directly his mention of aid brings memories of a tumultuous relationship. Just at the start of this month, there was a slight tiff in regards to aid. The US military moved to remove $300m in aid to Pakistan claiming Islamabad’s lack of ‘decisive actions’ as the reason behind the move.
“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300m (actually $323.6m to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by the Defense Department in the June/July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.
Then freshly appointed minister Qureshi had said that he will take up the issue with Pompeo. He also noted that the amount the US was trying to scrap was, in actuality, a part of the support coalition fund. The money withdrawn is meant to cover the costs Pakistan has incurred in the War on Terror. He asserted that the money was a payment, not aid to be given to a nation. So, our foreign minister’s first run-in with the US was on these grounds. Not the worst of starts to maintain our own ground but also speak up in lieu of the world giant.
This latest meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA perhaps signifies an effort towards bettering relations.
We should, however, stay critical of any upcoming dialogue, which will potentially place Pakistan in a tricky position. A position where the US is able to pay the benefactor card in pressurizing Pakistan into taciturn submission. The PML-N government with Khawaja Asif as the foreign minister had quite the rocky relationship with the US. The track record of the current government is okay in dealing with the superpower, let’s just hope that there are fewer kinks down the road as well.