ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet with US President Donald Trump in Washington on July 22. The Pakistani Foreign Office announced the meeting on Thursday during its weekly press briefing adding that the “focus will be to refresh the bilateral relationship.”
“The agenda of the meeting is being developed through diplomatic channels and a detailed curtain-raiser will be issued before the visit,” Foreign Office spokesperson Dr. Muhammad Faisal told journalists.
The official announcement comes a day after the US Office of Foreign Assets Control updated its Counter Terrorism Designations and Designation list to define the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”
Pakistan acknowledged the move in a press handout from the Foreign Office that said: “We have taken note of the designation by the US. It is hoped that this will ensure that the BLA’s space to operate is minimized.”
The BLA is responsible for carrying out a number of attacks, mainly targeting the Chinese in Pakistan to derail the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
This will be Khan’s first visit to the US since rising to power in the 2018 general election, which paved the way for his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, to form the central government.
The meeting is expected to thaw frosty relations. Most of Trump and Khan’s recent correspondence has been limited to Twitter tirades.
Experts say the engagement will help address several underlying issues between the US and Pakistan.
Pakistan, which hosted an Afghan Peace Conference at the Bhurban hill station last month, has exercised its influence to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, paving the way forward for a potential US exit from Afghanistan. The warring Taliban and Afghan rivals are expected to meet this Sunday to discuss peace.
“I think Khan will present Pakistan’s narrative describing the challenges of his country and the gravity of the situation in the region, stressing the good relations Pakistan and US have enjoyed in the past,” said defense analyst Asad Mehmood, adding: “Both sides will attempt to narrow down the trust deficit.”
Mehmood said that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor will likely come under discussion due to the trade war between the US and China.
International relations expert Qamar Cheema said: “The political relationship between Pakistan and the US is weak, which has resulted in mistrust regarding Afghanistan, India, and to some extent Iran. However, the mistrust on Pakistan aiding nonstate actors in Afghanistan takes top position.” Islamabad has categorically denied this allegation.
Cheema said Pakistan would need to revisit its relationship moving forward with the US. He said that since both countries have maintained “a transactional relationship, PM Khan must seek grounds to transform this into a “strategic and economic partnership.”