Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addresses the media on his first day at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on August 20, 2018. Photo: AFP / Farooq Naeem
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addresses the media on his first day at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on August 20, 2018. Photo: AFP / Farooq Naeem

While in the US to attend the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had the chance to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior officials of the Donald Trump administration. Qureshi is very optimistic on the future of bilateral relations after seeing a positive change in US thinking toward Pakistan.

We Pakistanis warmly welcome any positive development in this regard. Pakistan was a close ally of the US and the West for seven decades and played an important role during the Cold War era as well as in the “war on terror.” Pakistan may be a relatively small country but because of its geo-strategic location and geopolitical position, its role is always decisive. To whomever wins Pakistan’s support, victory may be ensured. That proved true in the past and will remain true in the future as well.

The coldness between the two countries started when US carried out the Abbottabad operation unilaterally and attacked Pakistan’s border post at Salalah. America’s lopsided inclination toward India while ignoring Pakistan totally also contributed to worsening of relations.

Strengthening India, extending economic and military assistance to India. Sale and transfer of modern, high-tech weapons and dangerous technologies to India. Declaring India a Major Defense Partner (MDP), supporting India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), backing India’s unnecessary and unnatural involvement in Afghanistan while undermining Pakistan’s role there, making India the biggest beneficiary of US aid after Israel – all these are major concerns for Pakistan.

US lobbying against Pakistan on international platforms such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the NSG and the Financial Action Task Force and opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and cancellation of payments from the Coalition Support Funds (CSF) and military training have been huge disappointments to Pakistan.

We believe that as per the foreign minister’s understanding, a change in the US administration’s thinking is visible. We are looking forward to a positive change on ground too.

The people of Pakistan expect equal and balanced treatment of the US between India and Pakistan. Any tilt toward India or Indian supremacy in the region may not satisfy the people of Pakistan.

The US may release CSF monies on an urgent basis, as we are suffering from an economic crisis, and moreover it is our money and we are claiming reimbursement only. The US may extend support to Pakistan in all international forums politically. Anti-Pakistan tweets, remarks or sentiments may be avoided by the Trump administration in the future.

CPEC is an opportunity for an economic takeoff for Pakistan, and the US should not oppose it. The US may open its markets for Pakistani products and may encourage its entrepreneurs to invest in Pakistan on a priority basis. The US may open its educational sector for Pakistani youth and visa restrictions may be relaxed.

I believe that, based on our relations for seven decades, both sides understand each other very well. The US also knows Pakistan’s strengths and weaknesses, and may utilize Pakistan’s potential for mutual interests. Trust and cooperation between Pakistan and the US may contribute to regional stability and global peace.

The new government in Pakistan is very positive and very clear in its vision. Prime Minister Imran Khan is an honest, brave and visionary leader. In his speeches, he has announced that Pakistan’s role for peace and stability will be promoted. We would be partner with US in pursuing peace.

Collaboration for peace and stability with any nation is always welcome. We have been contributing to global peace: Pakistan is one of the major contributors to the UN peacekeeping forces, and we want to play an even bigger role for international peace in any part of the world. By nature, we are a peace-loving people, and want to maintain our positive contribution of peace and stability throughout the world.

We have suffered a lot during the last four decades. Imposed war has damaged our economy, our nation, and our reputation. We have sacrificed 70,000 precious human lives, and suffered an estimated loss of around US$250 billion in our economy. Social conditions have deteriorated hugely. To date, because of the imposition of the “war on terror,” we are faced with such evils as terrorism, gun culture, drugs, extremism, intolerance, and corruption. We are not sure how long we will have to face the aftershocks.

Pakistan during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was very different, a much more prosperous, stable, tolerant and moderate society. Troubles started in the 1980s and onward. The nation is fed up with such evils and wants to move forward toward peace, stability, development and prosperity. We want the US administration to consider the new trends in Pakistan and extend its hand of friendship. The people of Pakistan welcome any positive change in this direction.

Zamir Awan

Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.

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