WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has welcomed Prime Minister Imran Khan to the White House as the US leader expressed willingness to mediate on the question of Kashmir and looked forward to developing great relationship with Pakistan and work closely on Afghanistan peace.
Talking to media persons at his Oval Office along with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump voiced concern over the situation in Kashmir for the last many years.
To a question whether the United States would arbitrate on Kashmir, President Trump said, “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator,’ I said where, he said, Kashmir. Because this has been going on for many, many years… I think they would like to see it resolved and you (Imran Khan) would like to see it resolved. If I can help, I would love to be a mediator.”
President Trump indicated that India would also be willing to accept the US mediation on the longstanding dispute. Kashmir was a beautiful world and it must remain so, he added.
Prime Minister Imran said the United States was the most powerful country in the world, which could play an important role in bringing peace in the Sub-continent.
“There are over a billion and quarter people in the Sub-continent. They are held hostage to the issue of Kashmir,” he added.
The US could help bring the two countries closer to each other, he remarked.
The prime minister said for its part Pakistan had tried its best to start a dialogue to resolve the differences. But unfortunately, it could not work as yet.
He said,”You would have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate (on Kashmir).”
On Afghanistan, Trump said Washington was working with Pakistan for achievement of Afghan peace. He said he fully agreed with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that there was no military solution to the Afghan issue and dialogue was the only way forward to resolve the issue.
Lauding Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace, he said Pakistan had been helping the US a lot now on Afghanistan and that the relations with the country were much better now than before.
“I think they could have helped us a lot in the past, but it doesn’t matter [now]. We have a new leader, he is going be a great leader of Pakistan. We have a sort of new leader here [in the US],” he said.
The prime minister highlighted Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror in terms of thousands of lives and billions of dollars lost to militancy. He said the present process of Afghan peace talks was going through a crucial stage and Pakistan’s role was to bring both the Taliban and the Afghan government at the negotiating table.
Imran Khan said millions of people had been affected by the Afghan war and Pakistan was the worst affected country in the region from the decades old war.
Pakistan would be straightforward in its cooperation on Afghan peace, he added.
In response to a question by the APP correspondent, President Trump said he would like to expand trade and economic relationship manifold with Pakistan and added it greatly helped in curbing extremism.
Trump said Pakistanis were talented people and that he had many Pakistani friends in New York.
He said the people of India and Pakistan were smart and there should be peace in South Asia.
Speaking high of the prime minister, he said, “It’s my great honour to have the very popular and by the way great athlete, one of the greatest, Prime Minister of Pakistan.”
He was also appreciative of Pakistan and its people. “Great country. Pakistanis are great people. I have many friends in Pakistan. They are smart, and tough; no question about that. Like you, they’re tough,” Trump said.
Replying to a question whether he would go to Pakistan, Trump said in a lighter tone that as he had yet to be invited by PM Imran, he would “love to” visit one day.
According to a statement issued by the White House, during the meeting with Imran Khan, Donald Trump discussed a range of issues like counter-terrorism, defence, energy and trade.
President Trump reiterated that the US was committed to creating the conditions necessary for a peaceful South Asia.
Before stressing that Pakistan needs to address security concerns of the United States, Trump assured that he would build stronger economic and trade ties between the two countries.
The statement also mentioned the bilateral trade ties between the US and Pakistan, saying the US exports to Pakistan reached a record high of $2.8 billion in 2018, supporting approximately 10,000 American jobs. The US was the largest export market for Pakistan’s goods and over the past 15 years, the US had been one of the top five investors in Pakistan.