The new Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi appears to have returned empty handed
indica Washington Bureau
During his nearly 10-days of shuffling between New York and Washington, the foreign minister apparently failed to convince the Trump Administration of the need to pressurize India to resume talks with India.
The administration was also not convinced with his argument that Pakistan has been acting against terrorist groups and there are no safe havens at all. On Tuesday, October 2, he had meetings with the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and the National Security Advisor, John Bolton.
And before that he created a major embarrassment for himself when he converted a handshake with US President Donald Trump into a meeting during a luncheon on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The self-proclaimed meeting upset the White House.
At the US Institute of Peace, he challenged US military and members of Congress to come into Pakistan and he will take them anywhere they want to go, to show there are no safe havens any longer. He said that over the last two years, the dynamic in Pakistan has changed in regard to what Islamabad is doing to help bring a political solution to Afghanistan.
A day later the Commander of the US Central Command General Joseph Votel said that terrorist safe havens continue to exist in Pakistan.
“They need to do that by making absolutely sure that there are no instructions, direction, other things coming from Taliban leadership that remains in Pakistan to their fighters on the ground,” Votel said.
Pakistan, he said, needs to ensure that they continue to ensure that there can be no movement back and forth and that fighters can’t come back into Pakistan to get aid or medical care or other things with that. “And they need to use their influence with the Taliban to force the Taliban leadership to come to the table. And they can do this, they can put pressure on them to do this,” Votel said.
A few hours later, Bolton told reporters that during the meetings he and Pompeo had with Qureshi they hoped that the new Pak government might be able to turn a page and move forward.
Responding to questions at the US Institute of Peace, Qureshi tacitly acknowledged that he could not cut ice during his meetings with the Trump Administration officials. There was positive movement, instead of being hawkish at least they were willing to listen, he told the Washington audience.
Qureshi also acknowledged that US did not respond to his request that they facilitate peace talks with India.
“When we asked the US, to play facilitating role…Why do we ask? Simply because we are not engaging bilaterally. And that bilateral disengagement is a distraction. We want to focus, we want to move on the western side of the border, which we are not being able to because we have to watch our back from eastern side (of the border with India). That is not a healthy situation to be in,” Qureshi said.
“Now can you (United States) facilitate? The answer from them is no. They wanted bilaterally. But there is no bilateral movement,” he said. “If that lack of facilitation leads to escalation and some of the statements that have come out of late have not been very helpful,” he said referring to the remarks by Indian leaders.