Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at the White House shortly after 12pm local time for his first one-on-one meeting with US President Donald Trump.
He was received by President Trump, who greeted him with a handshake and a pat on the arm.
The two waved to PTI supporters gathered outside the White House before heading inside for their meeting.
In televised remarks from inside the Oval Office, President Trump noted that the US is working with Pakistan to leave Afghanistan, and does not want the US to be “policeman” in the region.
“Pakistan is helping us a lot now on Afghanistan,” he said.
In wide-ranging remarks, he also offered to intercede to improve strained relations between Pakistan and India, and further said that aid to Islamabad could be restored depending on the kind of understanding reached between the two leaders.
To a question asking him about his own unfavourable views about Pakistan in the past, Trump said, “I don’t think Pakistan respected the United States [in the past]. I don’t think Pakistan respected its [the United States’] presidents. I think Pakistan could have done a tremendous amount with respect to Afghanistan: they didn’t do it — another blame game because they were dealing with the wrong presidents — who knows?
“I think they could have help us a lot in the past, but it doesn’t matter [now]. We have a new leader, he is going be a great leader of Pakistan. We have a sort of new leader here [in the US] … but now I think Pakistan could have done a lot [in the past] but it choose not to just because they didn’t respect US leadership,” he said.
In response to another question, the US president also offered to mediate Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said.
“If I can do anything to help, let me know,” he said, to which PM Imran said that if Trump would, he would “have the prayers of more than a billion people.”
President Trump also said that the US is willing to invest in Pakistan and sees great trade opportunities there. He also talked about expanding trade “10, 20 times”.
In reply to a question on whether he would ever go to Pakistan, which he at one point described as a “wonderful country”, Trump joked that while he had yet to be invited by PM Imran, he would “love to” visit one day.
Prime Minister Imran told reporters that there was only one solution for Afghanistan and remarked that a peace deal with the Taliban was closer than it had ever been.
“This is the closest we have ever come,” he said, saying he agreed with Trump’s assessment that a military ‘solution’ to the Afghan war would result in a catastrophic loss of lives.
He said he hoped that in the coming days, “we will be able to urge the Taliban to talk with the Afghan government and come to a political solution”, a point that was promptly appreciated by Trump — who again noted that Pakistan had helped tremendously in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Imran also highlighted Pakistan’s own sacrifices in the so-called ‘War on Terror’, reminding Trump that Pakistan had lost 70,000 people and billions of dollars due to the conflict.
While the two leaders spoke to the media, the senior military leadership, including Chief of Armed Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, arrived at the White House for delegation-level talks, which will conclude at 2.15pm local time.
Handout from White House
The White House has also issued a fact-sheet of the meeting. Following are some excerpts:
WORKING TOWARD PEACE, STABILITY, AND PROSPERITYPresident Donald J. Trump is working to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan on issues that are vital to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the South Asia region.
- Today, President Trump is welcoming Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan to the White House. President Trump and Prime Minister Khan will discuss a range of issues, including counterterrorism, defense, energy, and trade.
- The United States is committed to creating the conditions necessary for a peaceful South Asia.
- President Trump wants to build stronger economic and trade ties with Pakistan, which would benefit both of our countries, as we make progress on core United States security concerns.
CHARTING A PATH TO PEACE AND STABILITY President Trump has made clear that he wants to see peace and stability in the region.
- The President acknowledges the initial steps Pakistan has taken to improve regional security and counter terrorism.
- Pakistan has made efforts to facilitate the Afghanistan peace talks, and we are going to ask them to do more.
- The path to a strong and enduring partnership between Pakistan and the United States lies in working together to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan.
- Pakistan has taken some steps against terrorist groups operating within Pakistan.
- It is vital that Pakistan take action to shut down all groups once and for all.
The full text can be accessed here.
Ahead of the meeting, US Senator Lindsey Graham, who by some accounts has been instrumental in arranging the meeting, tweeted the following:
“Great meeting with the PM of Pakistan, Imran Khan.
“In my opinion he and his government represent the best opportunity in decades to have a beneficial strategic relationship the US. This will help us secure Afghanistan and the region long-term.”
“Tremendous business opportunities exist between Pakistan and the US through a free trade agreement tied to our mutual security interests,” he continued in a subsequent tweet.
“It’s also our best chance in decades to reset the relationship between the US and Pakistan.
“Hoping for a great meeting between President @realDonaldTrump and PM Khan today,” he concluded.
Agenda of the meeting
In his first visit to the White House since assuming office, Prime Minister Imran can expect to hear demands from Trump, who in the past has accused Pakistan of lying and being duplicitous.
On his end, Prime Minister Imran hopes to make a forceful case for Pakistan’s interests. Addressing a rally in Washington DC yesterday, he had said: “I have never bowed before anyone, and I will never let my nation bow either.”
The US president’s calendar indicates Prime Minister Imran’s arrival to the White House at 12pm local time, with a bilateral meeting slated to begin at 12.05pm and run to 12.50pm in the Oval Office.
It will be followed by an extended bilateral working lunch from 12.50pm to 2.15pm in the White House’s Cabinet Room, after which Prime Minister Imran will be seen off by the US president.
The goal of the visit, according to a senior Trump administration official, is “to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process.”
The Trump administration also wants to encourage Pakistan to “deepen and sustain its recent effort to crack down on militants and terrorists within its territory”, the official said on condition of anonymity.
“We are concerned about the links between these groups and Pakistan’s intelligence services and military,” the administration official said, referring to Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network. Pakistan denies providing support to militant groups and argues that, in fact, it has sustained huge losses in terms of lives and money as it fights extremism.
“One of the big storylines going into the Trump-Khan meeting is the sharp disconnect in expectations,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at The Wilson Center.
“Pakistan wants to use the meeting as an opportunity to reset and broaden the relationship. The US has a more narrowly defined goal of securing more assistance from Pakistan for the Afghanistan peace process,” said Kugelman.
Trump, a property developer turned reality TV star, and PM Imran, World Cup-winning captain of the Pakistan cricket team, both came to office after achieving fame away from politics and the personal chemistry between the two may be decisive.
“A lot will depend on the kind of mood that President Trump and indeed Prime Minister Imran Khan find themselves in,” said Farzana Sheikh, an associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. “Neither of them is known to be particularly predictable.”
On July 23, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will call on the prime minister. Prime Minister Imran will also address a meeting at the US Institute of Peace and have lunch with newspaper editors.
Later, he will go to Capitol Hill for a meeting with the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and also address the bipartisan Pakistani American Caucus. So far, more than 40 lawmakers have reportedly signed up for this meeting. The premier will also meet Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi before returning home on July 23.