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Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to visit the United States next month to hold talks with US President Donald Trump amid expectations of mending estranged ties between the two countries.

Diplomatic sources said that dates for the Prime Minister's visit to the US are being worked out with the US authorities and one such proposed date is July 20.

Earlier, while responding to a question posed by Business Recorder during media talk on Thursday last, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is likely to undertake the visit to the US next month. He said that both the sides are in contact to firm up the dates for the Prime Minister's visit to the US in July. He said that an earlier date for the visit was postponed due to the ongoing budget session of the National Assembly.

"Certainly, President Trump himself has acknowledge the importance of Pakistan and also expressed his desire to hold interaction with Prime Minister Imran Khan on various issues on which there is convergence," he said, adding that there is also a desire on both the sides to move forward on the issues.

A new ray of hope in improvement of ties between the two countries started in December last year when President Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Khan and sought Islamabad's help in facilitating a negotiated settlement of lingering Afghan conflict and emphasised that 'Pakistan and the US should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership'.

According to Lieutenant General Talat Masood (retd), a senior analyst, the Trump administration is currently making efforts to reach an understanding with the Afghan Taliban for the peace and stability in Afghanistan. "To my understanding, the expected visit of the Prime Minister will also be helpful for both the countries for trust building. US wants Pakistan's crucial role in restoration of peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been making efforts to reset its ties with the US. So, the visit can be fruitful for both the countries," he said. He pointed out that the US is one of the largest markets of Pakistan's exports, adding that Pakistan cannot afford to lose the US market. Therefore, he added that the Prime Minister's top most priority will be to ensure good relations.

To a question, he said Pakistan needs to keep a balance in its relations with China and the US, as relations with both the powers are equally crucial for the country. He further stated that Trump can also play an important role for improvement of relations between Pakistan and India. In March this year, US President Donald Trump indicated his readiness to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan after Washington launched fresh efforts for peace in Afghanistan by engaging with Afghan Taliban in peace talks, in which Pakistan is playing a role as facilitator.

"Pakistan - we'll be meeting with Pakistan. I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan," Trump told journalists in White House on March 23, 2019. Trump's March 23 comments were relatively encouraging for engagement at the leadership level as previous to that he had been highly critical.

On January 3, 2019 he said to his cabinet: "We want to have a great relationship with Pakistan, but they house the enemy. They take care of the enemy. We just can't do that," he said, while repeating the accusations of providing safe haven allegedly to Haqqani network. Pakistan, however, has constantly rejected the allegations. "So, I look forward to meeting with the new leadership in Pakistan. We will be doing that in the not too distant future. But I ended the $1.3 billion that we paid. I think it was water; we were just paying to Pakistan. So, I ended that," Trump reportedly had told his cabinet.

In September 2018, the Trump administration suspended $300 million in military aid to Pakistan allegedly for not doing enough against terror groups. It was followed by his tirade against Pakistan via the Twitter in November 2018, saying Islamabad was not doing enough to stop terrorism. "We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That's ENDING!", Trump stated in a November 19, 2018 tweet.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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