Time to 'turn the page' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 06, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:18 AM, September 06, 2018

Time to 'turn the page'

Says Pompeo as he visits Pakistan to 'reset' ties strained over Islamist militants, Afghan war


♦ Pompeo 'pleased' after meeting with Pak FM

♦ The visit comes as US tilts away from Pakistan, while deepening ties with India to counter China's influence 

♦ Neighbouring India is next on whistle-stop tour


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad yesterday, in the first high-level US visit to the new government, looking to reset relations strained over Islamist militants and Afghanistan war.

Tensions between the uneasy allies rose ahead of yesterday's visit when the Pentagon confirmed it had made a final decision to cancel $300 million in military aid to Pakistan.

After greeting Khan in the capital Islamabad, Pompeo said he was "very pleased" with his earlier meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. "We had an excellent meeting. I'm very happy with the meeting we had," Qureshi agreed, according to a pool report.

Khan, a cricket legend who swept to power in the July elections, said he was hopeful about resetting relations.

"I'm a born optimist. A sportsman always is an optimist. He steps on the field and he thinks he's going to win," Khan told reporters.

Pompeo was also expected to meet Pakistan's army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, before flying out yesterday afternoon.

On the plane ahead of his South Asia trip, Pompeo said it was time to "turn the page" and suggested that the election of Khan, who has vowed to seek better relations with the US, could provide a fresh impetus, reported AFP.

The visit comes as the US tilts away from Pakistan, while deepening strategic and economic ties with India in a bid to counter China's increasing influence in the "Indo-Pacific" region -- Pompeo's preferred term for the area that stretches from the west coast of the United States to the west coast of India.

Pompeo will have to perform a tricky balancing act, analysts say, as Pakistan is fast falling within China's sphere of influence and its arch-rival India is smarting over a series of trade threats and insults from President Donald Trump, reported CNN Online.

"US-Pakistan ties have deteriorated significantly," said Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "US patience across parties has grown thin. Pakistanis generally believe that the United States is a fair-weather friend, in contrast to the 'all-weather' friendship of China."

On US-India relations, Ayres added that "the unprecedented degree to which President Trump focuses on at times arbitrary and even trivial economic issues to measure the health of foreign relations has created new uncertainty."

Pompeo is due next to visit India, Pakistan's neighbour and bitter foe, where he is expected to pile pressure on New Delhi over its purchases of Iranian oil and Russian missile systems.

Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will meet their Indian counterparts in New Delhi today, and are expected to finalise defence pacts that could bring their militaries closer amid China's rising influence, reported Reuters.

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