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Nawaz Sharif might like to attend Trump’s inauguration: Report

New York: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif might like to attend US President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration with his government voicing optimism the new administration in Washington will provide it with “a fresh opportunity to burnish its credentials” with the US, a media report said.

The Pakistani government had sent a special emissary Tariq Fatemi to Washington last week “where he hinted broadly that Sharif might like to attend Trump’s inauguration”, said The Washington Post.

Fatemi said he believed the incoming Trump administration would provide Pakistan with “a fresh opportunity to burnish its credentials” with the United States, the report said.

It added that senior Pakistani officials said they take the long view of their country’s relationship with the US, which has been dominated by military and intelligence ties.

“Our relationship with the United States is almost as old as Pakistan itself. There have been ups and downs, but overall we have remained very close,” Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s top foreign policy chief, said in an interview. “Through both Republican and Democratic administrations, there has been a broad continuity in policy, and we fully expect our relations will continue on an uphill trajectory.”

Following Trump’s conversation with Sharif, in which the US president-elect had said Pakistan is a “fantastic” country and hinted casually that he would be willing to help Pakistan solve its historic differences with India, Pakistani officials are now “scrambling to prepare for an unpredictable new phase” in its wary but enduring partnership with Washington.

Vice president-elect Mike Pence too had said several days ago that the new US administration planned to be “fully engaged in both nations” and was prepared to play a “pivotal role” in resolving the key dispute over Kashmir.

“The key issue for the US is that escalation could spark a conflict between two nuclear powers,” Awais Leghari, who is chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Pakistan’s Parliament, said in the report. “We cannot resolve these issues without superpower help, and it needs someone who is out of the box, someone radical enough to put an international hand into a sincere effort.”

Pakistani officials said they also want to reassure the incoming administration that their relations with other countries are not a “zero sum game” and are independent of their policies toward the US. They insisted that their deepening economic trade and plans for a major transportation corridor to China do not represent a “pivot” away from their longtime economic and military links with Washington.

Aziz added that Pakistan, like the US, wants to see Afghanistan become peaceful and stable. He said Pakistan has been “frustrated” that its efforts to arrange peace talks with the Taliban have failed, and that rising attacks in Afghanistan have been partly the result of Pakistan’s military raids to drive the insurgents out of the tribal border areas.

“To blame everything on Pakistani sanctuaries is simplistic,” he said.

PTI