Biden administration delivers a blunt message to Pakistan

Posted on October 10, 2021, 10:26 am
3 mins

ISLAMABAD: US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, who was on a two-day visit to Pakistan, met foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pakistan national security advisor Moeed Yusuf, with whom she discussed the issues related to Afghanistan and regional security.

According to The Guardian report, during the meeting, a senior US official made clear to Pakistan that the Biden administration has downgraded the bilateral relationship.

On the eve of her arrival, the deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, used a public event in Mumbai to layout in blunt terms the new parameters of US-Pakistan relations, stressing there would be no equivalence with Washington’s deepening ties to India.

The Islamabad trip was for “a very specific and narrow purpose”, Sherman said, to talk about Afghanistan and the Taliban.

“We don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan, and we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India-Pakistan,” she added. “That’s not where we are. That’s not where we’re going to be.”

Sherman’s reception in Pakistan the next day was stilted. A planned meeting with the prime minister, Imran Khan, never materialised. Senior Pakistan government officials told the Guardian that there was diplomatic tension between the two countries that needed to be resolved and that Khan was angry that he had still not received a phone call from Joe Biden.

However, Fawad Chaudhry, the information minister, said that the talks with Sherman had gone well. “I think she spoke very warmly in Pakistan and she has understood Pakistan’s point of view,” Chaudhry said.

Biden sets great store by his personal relations with world leaders, and in his speech marking the completion of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan on 31 August the president said the new emphasis would be on regional diplomacy. In that context, the decision not to call is intended to be an unambiguous signal of Washington’s displeasure with Khan’s attitude to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Khan described the Taliban takeover as “breaking the chains of slavery”. The US wants Pakistan to maintain international solidarity in withholding recognition of the Taliban while pressing for women’s rights and other democratic principles.

About the absence of a presidential phone call to Imran Khan, the White House said it had nothing to add to non-committal remarks by the press secretary, Jen Psaki, in late September when she said she didn’t “have anything to predict at this point in time”.

Pakistan has been long accused of playing a double game in the fight against terrorism, on one hand being a supposed ally in the US “war on terror” while also supporting and sponsoring the Taliban, and allowing them to live and regroup on Pakistan soil.

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