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USA-China equally important to Pakistan: Shah Mahmood Qureshi

25 September, 2018

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The United States and China are equally important to Pakistan, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while speaking at the Pakistani embassy in Washington D.C. on Sunday.

He was responding to a media questions on the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf led government’s foreign policy ahead of his participation at the United Nations 73rd General Assembly.

Qureshi will address the Assembly on the Sept 29, and will hold meetings with US officials including, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on October 2.

He highlighted that Pakistan considers China as an ‘important and reliable friend’, while referring to the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He also stressed, “America is also important to Pakistan.”

Speaking on the restoration of US security assistance, he commented that the US had suspended financial assistance earlier too, in order to apply pressure on Pakistan, but it proved futile.

Commenting on the cancellation of training opportunities for Pakistani soldiers in the US, Qureshi explained, “Direct face to face connections lead to trust and confidence, established through a personal understanding of one another. Suspension of military assistance for Pakistani officers to train in the US has spoiled the chance for the US and Pakistani officers to establish personal relationships, trust and shared goals.”

However, he said the two administrations are now exploring ways to re-establish confidence in one another. He continued, “Pakistan had a fractured relationship with the US, but we are working on ways to improve it.”

“We need to look for convergence and see how we can better manage that convergence,” he said.

Qureshi emphasized the importance of the US-Pakistan relationship, highlighting previous collaborations. He said, “the US has benefited from its relationship with Pakistan during the Cold War, the hunt for Al- Qaida, and now again in the War On Terror.” Speaking on the US demand for Pakistan to exert influence on the Taliban to participate in the Afghan peace process, Qureshi said, “We will use whatever influence we have. Our intentions are positive. We have a clear conscience.”

Describing the recent US delegation visit to Pakistan that included Pompeo, and Chairman Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford, Qureshi said, “we held very frank, candid and honest discussions about the bilateral relationship.” He continued, “the US delegation also viewed the discussions positively, and as a step in moving the relationship forward.”

The US delegation’s next stop after Pakistan was India, where Qureshi said it was, “understood and a forgone conclusion that terrorism as an issue of discussion would be raised by India.” However, he stressed this was not something that concerned Pakistan. Speaking about the flourishing US- India relationship Qureshi said, “Pakistan has no issue with that.”

On India’s recent refusal to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. meetings in New York, he said that though he was dismayed at India’s vacillation, the door for negotiations remained open for resumption of talks. “We will not abandon our efforts for peace he said.”

But he also stressed that although peace and stability is essential for the region, ‘It is not just Pakistan’s responsibility’. He encouraged all countries in the region to actively engage in efforts to achieve peace and stability.

He reiterated Pakistan’s offer to open Kartarpur border crossing for Sikh pilgrims to attend Baba Guru Nanak’s anniversary this year. “Although India appears reluctant, we will not close our doors,” he said, describing Pakistan’s willingness to improve relations.

He added, “not addressing the issues will not resolve them and neither will it improve the situation in Kashmir.”

Qureshi unequivocally rejected India’s concerns regarding a Pakistani postal stamp depicting Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani. “Thousands of people are fighting for freedom in Kashmir, not all of them are terrorists,” he said.

Speaking on the Pakistani delegation’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, he said, “We made it clear we were not asking for money.” He continued the relationship with Saudi Arabia is very important to Pakistan. “The purpose of the visit was to reconnect with reliable allies who have remained with us and supported us during difficult times.”

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