Forthcoming US visits to release political tensions, says business leader

LAHORE: Pak-US Business Council Group Founder Chairman and United Business Chairman Iftikhar Ali Malik on Saturday voiced hope that the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process between Pakistan and US would move forward in days to come as he underlined that “differences” on all outstanding issues, including the war on terrorism, can be resolved only through result-oriented dialogue.

Welcoming the President Donald Trump’s decision dispatching his top diplomatic and military advisors to Pakistan in the coming weeks, Malik said the forthcoming visit of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson followed by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will trim down the current tension levels escalating between the US and its old ally Pakistan on the issue of alleged harboring terrorists on Pakistani soil.

He said dialogue is the only available vehicle to solve all outstanding issues and the two countries would stay engaged with a constructive approach to achieve shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.

He said it is out of the question that Pakistan is not sincere to eliminate terrorism from its soil. Pakistan has rendered innumerable sacrifices including this tragic reality that more than 75,000 people lost their lives in the war against terrorism. “We have made our contributions, we fought a very difficult war, we suffered casualties and have suffered irreparable economic losses running into trillions of dollar and that is the message that Pakistan should send to the world leadership,” he said. “We are partners in the war against terrorism.”

He said the Trump administration’s new policy towards Pakistan should be realistic and based on ground realities in view of Pakistani sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

He said mistrust is the key issue between both the countries to normalize the relationship but the US policymakers should realize that Pakistan is an inevitable partner if it wants durable peace in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. “Steps should be taken from the both sides to remove this mistrust and sceptical view of the intentions on each side and Tillerson should play his role to diminish current tensions between both the countries,” he added.

He said both the US and Pakistan recognise that the rupture is going to be costly and would hurt them in Afghanistan.

The veteran trade leader Malik made it clear that Pakistan is in need of trade, not aid. He said the US was providing an annual $ 1.5 billion aid package to Pakistan’s civil sector before President Trump announced to cut down aid package to Pakistan. “However, Pakistan wants to get improved US trade access for its textile exports, a key demand to revive its moribund industry and something that would be clearly more effective than just aid. Therefore, both the countries should enhance economic cooperation and work together for early finalisation of the Free Trade Agreement to boost bilateral trade.

He said that the US-Pakistan trade and economic partnership can be further expanded with renewed efforts of public and private sectors of both the countries. He also suggested that the American businessmen also visit Pakistan with a positive intention of investing in Pakistan as CPEC, a joint business venture between China and Pakistan is reflecting this opinion that Pakistan is the safe place for investment.

He ruled out any possibility of a military solution to the Afghan conflict and the efforts should continue for a regional approach for an internal political settlement in Afghanistan through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

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