First, Pakistan boycotts Biden’s summit. Now, Imran Khan calls for strengthening ties with US

US President Joe Biden and Pakistan PM Imran Khan (file photo) | Bloomberg/ANI

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New Delhi: A four-member delegation of the US Senate Armed Services Committee arrived on an official visit to Pakistan Friday.

The delegation led by Senator Angus King included senators Richard Burr, John Cornyn and Benjamin Sasse. According to a PTI report, the delegation “reaffirmed their commitment to a stable and broad-based Pakistan-US bilateral relationship.”

Brookings fellow Madiha Afzal, who writes on Pakistan’s foreign policy, called it a “notable visit”.

The delegation also emphasised that given the size of Pakistan’s population and its geo-strategic location, the US and Pakistan should make determined efforts to promote trade, investment and economic cooperation, the PTI reported.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, the senators thanked Pakistan for the help they extended to American nationals and others during the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The Pakistan government had helped in the evacuation of Americans and other nationals from the conflict-hit region.

Pakistan-based The Express Tribune wrote Saturday that the top civil-military leadership told the delegation that “Pakistan’s interests are compatible with the interests of the US as both the countries believe in democracy, rule of law, and striving for the provision of security at the regional and world level.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the delegation to strengthen the ties between the two nations in a bid to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. “Pakistan valued its long-standing relationship with the United States and was committed to expanding it in all spheres, particularly in the economic dimension,” Khan told the four-member US delegation.

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His comments come at a time when relations between US and Pakistan look frayed after the PM boycotted the Democracy Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden.

Earlier in the week when Khan decided to give a miss to the US event, experts said “the decision sends a ‘strong message’ to the US about Islamabad’s objections to the lack of high-level engagement between the two countries”.

His latest statement to the senators calling for “strengthening of ties” was called “shifting of stance” by Hindustan Times.

On the day of the delegation’s arrival, The Express Tribune in its article published 10 December had said, “Pakistan tries to soothe US with charm offensive”. The publication hinted that Pakistan’s decision of not attending the Biden summit was driven by China. “If the official sources are to be believed China was keen that Pakistan must stay away from President Biden’s initiative which, according to Beijing, was not meant for democracy but to advance the geostrategic interests of Washington,” the publication wrote.

(Edited by Prashant)

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