Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Tuesday highlighted what Pakistan desires to achieve through the meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump scheduled next week, focusing on enhanced trade and economic cooperation with a constructive and positive approach.
Speaking at a seminar titled "Pakistan-US Relations: Way Forward," organised by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) in connection with Prime Minister Khan's maiden trip to the US from July 21-23, Qureshi said that Pakistan's first and foremost objective to achieve from the visit is to work for broader engagement from Afghanistan to bilateral economic and trade cooperation to peace and stability in region.
"First and foremost, we believe that moving forward with a constructive and positive approach is in the best interest of both Pakistan and the US. It would, therefore, be appropriate to work for a broader engagement from Afghanistan to bilateral economic and trade cooperation to peace and stability in South Asia," he said.
He said that Islamabad sees a great potential to deepen and broaden its economic engagement with Washington, adding that the US has been Pakistan's important development, trade and investment partner - Pakistan's second largest export market after European Union, with total trade of $ 6.627 billion during FY2018-19 and over $ 1.5 billion worth of investment.
"We are looking forward to explore ways and means to enhance this economic and trade cooperation to the mutual benefit of the two countries," he said, adding that engagement in areas such as economy and finance, energy, science and technology as well as agriculture has the potential to intensifying a long-term economic growth, stability and human development.
In the context of regional stability, Qureshi expressed the hope that in the meeting in Washington, both Prime Minister Khan and President Trump can agree on imperative of resumption of a sustained and result-oriented dialogue between Pakistan and India aimed at peacefully resolving all disputes, including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said that the US has important stakes in peace and security in the region and it has always been an active player whenever tensions have escalated between Pakistan and India, adding that the recent contribution of the US was helpful in defusing the tension post Pulwama attack.
"As we embark upon the first summit-level engagement with the US, we are confident that this visit will help in ushering an era of stability and prosperity in South Asia and the broader region. In this common objective, both Pakistan and the US will be the joint beneficiary," he added.
Qureshi pointed out that Pakistan is mindful of the US priorities regarding Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan has welcomed President Trump's 'far-sighted' decision to pursue a political solution in Afghanistan, "which in fact was an endorsement of our own position espoused for a long time."
He said Pakistan has been facilitating the US-Taliban talks in good faith, underscoring that it remains a shared responsibility. He said the convergence in Pakistan and the US policies on Afghanistan has rekindled the hope for resolution of the protracted Afghan conflict.
Acknowledging that there have been ups and downs in the Pakistan-US relations, he said that a constructive and cooperative approach is the best option for the two counties to realise the common objectives of peace and security in the region. Former Secretary National Security Division Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq (retd), who chaired the session, deliberated on Pak-US cooperation for peace in Afghanistan and prospects of peace deal.
He cautioned about the prospects of peace in Afghanistan, adding that the conflict has created a new elite that has no interest in peace in the country. He feared that even if all parties agree to peace, its implementation will remain a big challenge particularly if a single ethnic group dominates the others.
Former foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry stated that the US perspective towards Pakistan is shaped by the Afghanistan lens and increasingly from the Chinese lens. Therefore, he stated that it is important for Pakistan to impress upon the US leadership that Islamabad's relations with China are not poised against any other country. Both countries must attempt to revive and sustain bilateral dialogue process to deepen the relationship, he added.
Former defence secretary Lieutenant-General Asif Yasin Malik (retd) said that Pakistan's future policy towards the US should be guided by history, adding that foreign policy should advance economic interests as the main guarantor of national security. He said that military to military relations should not be the main driver of the bilateral relationship with the US.
Executive Director IPI Professor Sajjad Bokhari said that for a meaningful change in the complexion of bilateral ties, the US needs to review its Indo-Pacific Strategy, address Pakistan's security concerns and stop seeing China-Pakistan relations, particularly the CPEC, as a challenge. He underscored that both sides should recommit to the principles of mutual respect and finding common ground on issues of mutual interest.