Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi Says ‘Khan-Trump Meeting Has Helped Reduce Trust Deficit’

Washington: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Imran Khan’s first face-to-face talks with Donald Trump has removed the “vacuum” in bilateral ties and allowed the Prime Minister to present Pakistan’s point of view to the US President and reduce the trust deficit.

US-Pakistan relations have been rocky ever since Trump assumed charge, hitting a low point last year when he suspended millions of dollars of security assistance to Islamabad due to the country’s failure to clamp down on the Taliban and other militant groups operating out of Pakistani soil.

President Trump hosted Prime Minister Khan at the White House on Monday and the two leaders had a frank exchange, Qureshi said, indicating that the “stiffness that once existed in our relationship has been lessened.”

Addressing a press conference in Washington after Khan’s meetings here, Qureshi said President Trump has accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan extended to him by Prime Minister Khan.

According to Qureshi, the exchanges were frank and Pakistan’s delegation was able to deliver the message they had come with, “which was to present Pakistan’s point of view, as there had been a long gap [in discussions between the two sides] as an interaction of this level had not taken place in the past five years.

“For five years, the top leadership of the two countries had not met. Our country did not have a foreign minister and for five to six years we did not have any lobbyists appointed here all of this led to a vacuum in the relationship between the two sides,” the foreign minister was quoted as saying by The Dawn newspaper.

Talking about the seriousness from both countries towards rebuilding Pak-US relationship, Qureshi said: “We cannot forget the fact that the relationship between the two countries was such that no door was being opened for us…..

“From that, we have come this far. I am not saying that this sitting has completely changed the way things were for us. I am saying that a door that was completely shut for us … a possibility has been created for that door to be opened.

“We have come here in all seriousness to rebuild this relationship. The stiffness that once existed in our relationship has been lessened,” Qureshi said.

He said, “a new beginning, a new chapter is being opened, we should take this positively and hope that things will get better.”

When asked about US economic assistance which had been withdrawn in recent times, Qureshi said: “The first thing that we need to see is why the [economic] programmes had stopped. It was because of the trust deficit that had been built between the two countries.

“Now that we are making an effort to curb that deficit, we can hope that those programmes will be reinstated.”

On the issue of terror financing, Qureshi said, ” We have not come here to lie, nor have we come here to make promises that we cannot keep… We as a government will not promise that which we cannot deliver.”

Reacting to India’s reaction to President Trump’s offer to mediate between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, Qureshi said: “India has always reacted this way, they do not want any sort of interference on the Kashmir matter.

“They always say that they want bilateral talks on Kashmir, then they never come to the table for these talks. They do not want mediation and they do not want bilateral talks,” he claimed.

“Pakistan’s stance on the matter is very simple: we want peace, we want peace efforts, we believe that the only solution to the problem is through talks,” he said.

On the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts to restore peace in its own tribal areas, Qureshi said: “We all saw that right before the current [Pakistan] government elected, a new US policy was announced and in it, Pakistan was primarily blamed for the situation in Afghanistan. Our point of view is completely opposite to that.

“We believe that the reasons for the Afghan situation are manifold. The internal situation within Pakistan plays a great role in their regional situation. Furthermore, we kept saying and now the world has seen that Pakistan has made huge efforts on our side of the border and cleansed our own areas.