The White House has announced that President Trump will meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on July 22. In a statement, a spokesperson said the Trump-Khan meeting will focus on “strengthening cooperation between the United States and Pakistan to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to a region that has seen far too much conflict.” The meeting is also aimed at improving Pakistan-US relations.
A range of issues on the table at the Trump-Khan meeting
The statement also said the two leaders will talk about a wide number of issues ranging from defense and counterterrorism to trade and energy “with the goal of creating the conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership” between the two countries. The statement was issued hours after the U.S. State Department said the White House had not yet confirmed reports about the Trump-Khan meeting.
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Gandhara reports that on Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign office was scrambling to explain why the White House wasn’t publicly confirming their announcement of Khan’s planned visit to Washington. Khan had told a TV station in Pakistan earlier this week that he was planning to visit Washington this month but didn’t offer additional information about the trip.
Afghanistan may be the main focus
Although the White House statement suggests the Trump-Khan meeting will have multiple topics of conversation, Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington believes the agenda will have only a single issue: Afghanistan. He told multiple news outlets that the U.S.’s biggest priority in South Asia is securing peace with the Taliban, and the Trump administration sees Pakistan as a major part of that goal. He predicts that the Trump-Khan meeting will be part of Washington’s bigger push to convince Islamabad to pressure the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire.
Although Pakistani analysts aren’t expecting any major steps to be taken at the Trump-Khan meeting, they do expect improvements in Pakistan-US relations because both of them are “immensely strong” personalities who “abhor the status quo.”
Dunya News reports that Trump and Khan must also talk about the growing military tension between the U.S. and Iran because Pakistan shares a border with Iran. The news outlet believes a U.S. or Israeli assault on Iran will be severely detrimental to security in Pakistan and also the possibility for peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan-US relations in focus
This will be the first time Trump has invited Khan to visit the U.S. as prime minister, and Islamabad is hoping to see improvements in Pakistan-US relations. Ties between the two nations have grown cold. Washington alleges that even though the U.S. has sent billions of dollars in financial aid to the South Asian country, Pakistan has been harboring militants who plan deadly attacks against troops in Afghanistan and against India. However, Islamabad denies the allegations.
Voice of America (VOA) notes that the allegations have been a sore spot between Trump and Khan. The Pakistani prime minister entered into a Twitter dispute with the U.S. president over the issue, with Khan defending his nation’s “unmatched” sacrifices and successes in battling terrorism in the region.
Afghanistan has frequently played a role in the dialogue between the two nations. Mushahid Hussain, head of the foreign affairs committee for the Pakistani Senate, told Voice of America that improved Pakistan-US relations are required to promote peace in Afghanistan. He believes Trump now understands this, which is why he may be taking a friendlier approach toward Pakistan.