International

Pakistan PM meets Trump in bid to mend ties

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is holding his first face-to-face talks with US President Donald Trump during a trip to Washington DC.

The meeting is part of a push to mend relations, which have been strained by the Afghan conflict.

Trump reduced security aid to Pakistan early last year, accusing the country of “lies and deceit”.

At the White House meeting on Monday, Trump also offered to mediate the Indian-Pakistani conflict in Kashmir.

He said that he was making the offer after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested that he “mediate or arbitrate” the 70-year old territory dispute between the two nations.

“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said on Monday.

“If I can do anything on that let me know.”

What else did the leaders say?

Trump said that Pakistan was helping the US to “extricate” its troops from Afghanistan, through political negotiations.

The US president said he could win the war in Afghanistan within 10 days, but that he did not want to kill millions of people. He is aiming to persuade Khan to pressure the Taliban into striking a peace deal with the Afghan government.

Khan praised the negotiations, saying: “There is no military solution in Afghanistan. If you go all out military, millions and millions of people will die.”

Trump added that before Khan came into office, the country had been “subversive” to US interests and “did not respect US leadership”.

What are the diplomatic tensions?

Since he won Pakistan’s general election just under a year ago, Khan has called for “mutually beneficial” ties with America, while remaining an outspoken critic of US anti-terrorist tactics such as drone strikes.

The Trump administration is trying to negotiate its military withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taliban, a militant group it has long accused Pakistan of supporting.

Khan has previously said that US assistance was “minuscule” compared with what the US-led “war on terror” had cost Pakistan.

As well as counter-terrorism and defence, the two leaders are likely to be discussing trade and investment as Khan battles to fend off a balance of payments crisis after a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

How did relations fray last year?

Since Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration has adopted a hard line against Pakistan, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and misleading the US over the issue – charges Islamabad denies.

Trump began 2018 by promising on Twitter to end “foolish” aid to the country.

As much as $2bn (£1.6bn) in US security assistance has been suspended.

After Mr Trump tweeted again in November to remind Pakistan that 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden had lived there before finally being hunted down by US forces, Imran Khan shot back to “put the record straight” on which country had paid more to defeat terrorism.

According to Pakistan’s foreign office, Khan’s visit “will help renew and reinvigorate long-standing ties between Pakistan” and the US.

Adding to the positive mood music came a new tweet from Trump on Wednesday, announcing that Pakistan had arrested the “mastermind” of the 2008 terror attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, after a search lasting two years.

In actual fact, the man arrested, Hafiz Saeed, has been arrested and freed several times by the Pakistani authorities over the past two decades. Far from hiding, he has even addressed rallies and campaigned in recent Pakistani elections.

Pakistan will hope the arrest will help persuade the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global watchdog against money laundering and terrorism financing, not to blacklist it in the coming months. BBC