The State Department Tuesday said that even though the United States wants to see regional stability in South Asia, its relationships with Pakistan and India “stand on their own”.
During a press conference on Monday, Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, discussed the strained relations between Pakistan and India as well as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s invitation to Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to hold talks about the pressing issues, such as Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
On January 17, PM Shehbaz in an effort to resolve the burning issues with New Delhi, including Kashmir, asked Modi to hold serious and sincere talks.
“We’ve long called for regional stability in South Asia. That’s certainly what we want to see. We want to see it advanced. When it comes to our partnership – our partnerships with India and Pakistan, these are relationships that stand on their own. We do not see these relationships as zero-sum,” said Price.
The spokesperson stated that it is up to India and Pakistan to decide on the scope, manner, and pace of any talks between the two countries.
When asked if Washington is sending someone to Pakistan for a long-term solution to the collapse of the power grids, Price said the US has “assisted Pakistani partners across any number of challenges and is prepared to do so in this case if there is something that we’re able to provide”.
He said, however, that he was aware of any specific requests.
In view of Imran Khan’s claim that a “US conspiracy” was behind his resignation as prime minister, he was also questioned if the US would be open to holding negotiations with him and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
Washington is open and willing to cooperate with any elected government in Pakistan, the spokesperson responded.
“Pakistan is a partner of ours; we share a number of interests. We have demonstrated our desire to see constructive relations with Pakistan over the course of successive governments. As we have said in different contexts, we judge governments by the policies they pursue. It would ultimately be a question of the type of policy that any future government of Pakistan might pursue.”
Sustainable growth via IMF reforms
As the international lender works inside a restrictive policy framework, US Ambassador Donald Blome stated that Pakistan requires sustainable growth based on IMF reforms.
He noted that the reforms suggested by the IMF and the World Bank will put Pakistan on a road of sustained growth as he spoke to the members of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Blome said the US is looking for ways to reduce economic pressure on Pakistan. “Our bilateral trade in 2022 reached $9.9 billion, of which Pakistan exported goods worth $6.8 billion.”
He said the US commerce department is looking for ways to facilitate Pakistan, adding that the country needs to shift from imported fossil fuels to indigenous fuels. “Pakistan has got a lot of potential in this regard. The US is assisting the country to achieve this potential through consultancy and investment,” he added.
The US envoy stated that Pakistan was negatively impacted by climate change and added that various US officials visited the areas of the country hit by the floods a few weeks after the havoc they wreaked.
Since then, the US has pledged $200 million for relief operations and is working to help Pakistan combat the effects of climate change by developing a plan to deal with floods. This entails developing a robust infrastructure, he added.
Regarding the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan, Blome pointed out that this is a long process and would take time, while on visa issues, he admitted there was a backlog after the COVID-19 that is being cleared and the things would normalize in a few months. He said Pakistan has a huge unrealised potential in tourism, adding that the US is assisting the country in preserving its cultural heritage that fascinates tourists.