Prime Minister Imran Khan will travel to Washington to meet US President Donald Trump on July 22, the Pakistani foreign ministry said yesterday, a rare visit between leaders of the sometimes prickly allies.
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohamed Faisal said the prime minister is visiting Washington at the invitation of the US president.
He said at a weekly briefing that the agenda of the meeting is being developed through diplomatic channels, adding: “The focus will be to refresh the bilateral relationship”.
The visit would be Khan’s first to the US since coming to power last year.
Faisal gave no details.
The announcement comes as the US is seeking Pakistan’s help in finding a way out of neighbouring Afghanistan, where American forces are now in their 18th year of war.
Ostensibly allies, the US and Pakistan relationship has always been bumpy, and Trump has angered Pakistani officials in the past with his aggressive language.
The White House believes that the Pakistani military establishment has long helped fund and arm the Taliban, both for ideological reasons and to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies the claims and points out that it has paid the price for its alliance with the US in the so-called “war on terror”, with thousands of its citizens killed in its long struggle with militancy.
Pakistan has given Washington “nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools”, Trump wrote on Twitter at the start of 2018. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
However, Trump is also eager to end the war in Afghanistan, and Washington has long seen Pakistan as key towards that outcome.
The US has been holding talks with the Taliban since September last year in hopes of striking a deal, with the seventh round of negotiations currently taking place in Qatar.
Khan, for his part, has repeatedly blamed Pakistan’s participation in the “war on terror” for the surge in militant violence at home over the last decade, and has vowed to rebalance Islamabad’s relationship with Washington.
The pair – both celebrities-turned-politicians – have already clashed previously, with the prime minister once describing a potential meeting with the US president as a “bitter pill”.
Trump declared last year that he had cancelled assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars because Islamabad does not do “a damn thing” for the US.
At the time, Khan hit back at the criticism on Twitter, calling on the US president to name an ally that has sacrificed more against militancy.
The prime minister has said he would be prepared to work with Trump to stop the “insanity” in Afghanistan.
“This war will only end through talks,” he said.
At the news briefing in Islamabad yesterday, when asked about the declaration of the Baluchistan Liberation Army as a terrorist outfit by the US, Foreign Office spokesperson Faisal said that this is acknowledgement of Pakistan’s stance on the outfit.
He also announced that Pakistan has confirmed a meeting with India on July 14 on the Kartarpur Corridor.