Pak­istani aide has high hopes for Trump

For­eign af­fairs as­sis­tant sees open­ing for bet­ter ties with new ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY CARLO MUNOZ

The in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will pro­vide Pak­istan a “fresh op­por­tu­nity to bur­nish its cre­den­tials” with Wash­ing­ton, de­spite the pres­i­dent-elect’s sharp com­ments on Is­lamic ex­trem­ism on the cam­paign trail, a se­nior Pak­istani diplo­mat told re­porters on a Wash­ing­ton visit Mon­day.

Tariq Fatemi, spe­cial as­sis­tant on for­eign af­fairs to Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif, played down Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s com­ments re­gard­ing Mus­lims dur­ing the rough-and-tum­ble of the cam­paign, in­clud­ing the need for “ex­treme vet­ting” of im­mi­grants from heav­ily Is­lamic coun­tries such as Pak­istan, dur­ing a re­porters’ round ta­ble at the Pak­istan em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton.

With ten­sions and mil­i­tary clashes be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia over the peren­nial sore spot of Kash­mir ris­ing in re­cent weeks, Mr. Fatemi will hold in­for­mal meet­ings with Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, as well as “friends and well-wish­ers” tied to Mr. Trump’s tran­si­tion team in New York, part of an early out­reach to es­tab­lish links with the next U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I have some ex­pe­ri­ence in what [Amer­i­can] cam­paign rhetoric is,” Mr. Fatemi said, not­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence serv­ing as a se­nior Pak­istani diplo­mat to the U.S. go­ing back to the Nixon ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The stance be­ing taken by Mr. Trump and his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser nom­i­nee, for­mer Gen. Mike Flynn, on the need to con­front “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism” will not in­ter­fere with the “con­flu­ence of in­ter­ests” and mu­tual goals of the United States and Pak­istan, he added.

Mr. Trump’s early in­ter­ac­tions with Pak­istan got an un­usual air­ing when the Sharif gov­ern­ment made pub­lic a read­out of the prime min­is­ter’s con­grat­u­la­tory phone call to the pres­i­dent-elect, where Mr. Trump re­port­edly went on about the “fan­tas­tic” Pak­istani peo­ple, spoke of the “tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties” be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Is­lam­abad both re­gion­ally and glob­ally, and said his ad­min­is­tra­tion would be “ready and will­ing to play any role you want me to play” in ad­dress­ing the “out­stand­ing prob­lems” fac­ing Is­lam­abad.

Mr. Fatemi de­clined to com­ment on whether Mr. Trump’s offer in­di­cated the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion would be will­ing to strengthen its ties to Is­lam­abad, at the ex­pense of Wash­ing­ton’s re­la­tion­ship with In­dia. Some of Mr. Trump’s ad­vis­ers have also com­plained the Pak­ista­nis are read­ing more into Mr. Trump’s po­lite com­ments than was jus­ti­fied.

The call cer­tainly “cre­ated in­ter­est and ex­cite­ment” within U.S. po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic cir­cles re­gard­ing the height­ened ten­sions be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia, he said, adding “we are in no way dis­ap­pointed” in that re­sult. Pak­istan me­dia re­ports say Mr. Sharif is even weigh­ing a trip to Wash­ing­ton next month to at­tend Mr. Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, although the trip hasn’t been con­firmed.

“This is a fresh op­por­tu­nity to bur­nish [Pak­istan’s] cre­den­tials” as a strong Mus­lim democ­racy and U.S. ally in South Asia to achieve both coun­tries’ “bi­lat­eral, re­gional and global” na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy goals, the aide said.

His com­ments come as the Rus­sian de­fense min­istry con­firmed this week that Moscow and Is­lam­abad will con­duct joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises next year. Pak­istan will be­gin buy­ing arms from Rus­sia for the first time in decades, seen at the time as a way to counter In­dia’s grow­ing al­liance with Wash­ing­ton.

Pak­istan fears that In­dian in­flu­ence has pres­sured the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to “di­vert at­ten­tion away from the [con­flict]” in Kash­mir and “scape­goat Pak­istan” as the cause for the re­cent flare up in vi­o­lence in the coun­try.

New Delhi an­nounced in Oc­to­ber it had car­ried out a se­ries of airstrikes against sus­pected ter­ror­ist tar­gets inside Kash­mir, Reuters re­ported.

The strikes were in re­sponse to a Sept. 18 at­tack on an In­dian army base in Uri, miles from the di­vid­ing “Line of Con­trol” sep­a­rat­ing the In­dian- and Pak­istani-con­trolled re­gions inside the dis­puted and di­vided prov­ince.

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