By Muhammad Arshad Makhan
The current session of the United Nations’ General Assembly has proved a platform to Pakistan and the United States to open new vistas in bilateral relations.
On the sidelines of the 77th UNGA session, both the countries have held extensive fruitful meetings and exchanged views on wide range of international and bilateral issues. In these parleys the United States expressed firm resolve to remain committed to Pakistan. The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is a strong, long-term, and broad bilateral partnership.
Both the countries have many shared interests, including the advancement of democracy, peace, security, and economic development in Pakistan and in the region.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Pakistan following the country’s creation in 1947. We have a broad multi-faceted partnership with Pakistan in areas ranging from education to energy to trade and investment. The United States and Pakistan also maintain a strong security partnership.
The region, despite its challenges, is one of potential and growth, and encouraging regional integration is central to sustainable development and prosperity. We have worked to identify shared interests and act on them jointly.
US President Joe Biden expressed his determination to continue helping Pakistan in the humanitarian crisis. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called on Joe Biden at the reception of world leaders participating in the 77th session of the UNGA hosted by the US President. President Biden expressed his profound sadness at the loss of hundreds of lives due to the disaster and extended his sympathy to the affected families. He expressed the US’ resolve to continue humanitarian assistance to Pakistan.
During the meeting, the prime minister appreciated the flood relief efforts by the US government, the continuous Covid vaccine assistance and the collaboration between the two countries. In his speech to the UNGA Biden made a fervent appeal to help Pakistan deal with the devastation and urged the world to stay engaged with the country. Much of Pakistan is still underwater, and needs help, said the US president, adding that families are facing impossible choices, choosing which child to feed and wondering whether they’ll survive.
This is the human cost of climate change. And it’s growing, not lessening. The US president also called for action to address the climate change crisis and announced a $2.9 billion fund to support life-saving humanitarian and food security assistance across the globe for this year alone.
According to Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had a brief interaction with US President Joe Biden at a reception the US leader hosted for the world leaders in New York.
Responding to reporters’ questions at UN Headquarters in New York, Hina Khar described the conversation as constructive and forward-looking. The Pakistan-US relationship, the state minister added, was starting at a “solid footing and we don’t want to rush it. The minister said there was lot of sympathy and goodwill among world leaders for the flood-devastated Pakistan and now that must be converted into something concrete for the country to recover from the disaster, and build back better. We have fully briefed the international community about the extent of damage wrought by the climate-induced floods.
Similarly, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also held a cordial meeting in which Anthony Blinken expressed sympathy for the flood victims and assured the prime minister that the US will stand with Pakistan at this difficult time. Secretary Antony Blinken also met with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Washington D.C and the Foreign Minister apprised Secretary Blinken about the devastation caused by the cataclysmic floods with more than 33 million people displaced and a huge loss of lives and livelihoods.
Secretary Blinken expressed sincere condolences and solidarity with Pakistan over the loss of precious lives and monumental economic losses. He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to continue cooperating with Pakistan in meeting the challenges of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Secretary Blinken also maintained that, given Pakistan’s enormous potential, US private sector would like to invest in Pakistan including in energy sector.
The Foreign Minister expressed the need to assist Afghanistan in averting the humanitarian crisis and underlined that Pakistan would continue to work with the international community to achieve peace, development, and stability in Afghanistan. Secretary Blinken also thanked Pakistan for its support during the Afghan evacuation process. On the sidelines of a ceremony to celebrate 75th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and the U.S., at the State Department, Secretary Blinken announced additional $10 million for the flood victims. The Foreign Minister thanked him for the gesture.
The Foreign Minister Bilawal highlighted the relief efforts of the Government and people of Pakistan and thanked the U.S. government for its assistance. No country could deal with a crisis of this proportion on its own. He emphasized that Pakistan being one of the lowest emitters was ironically one of the most severely impacted by climate change.
Pakistan is seeking climate Justice and looked towards its partners to assist us in recovering from this climate induced calamity. The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan was committed to building back better, greener and climate resilient infrastructure in areas such as irrigation, communication, energy, agricultural technology, and health. Immediate action is required to help developing countries effectively face the climate crisis.
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The Foreign Minister underscored the historic and growing importance of Pakistan-US relationship in promoting peace, security, and economic prosperity in the region. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to deepening and broadening its ties with the U.S. particularly in the areas of trade and investment and underlined that both countries were celebrating 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in a befitting manner and were charting a promising and mutually-beneficial roadmap for their future generations.
In a separate meeting in New York with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the US Special Representative on Afghanistan Thomas West appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and in facilitation of evacuations. The two sides acknowledged the need for continued cooperation on the shared objectives of sustained efforts and engagement of the international community to alleviate the sufferings of the Afghan people and promote regional peace and stability.
Bilawal stressed a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan is a priority for Pakistan when US Special Representative for Afghanistan. The Foreign Minister stressed the significance of continuing international engagement with the interim Afghan government for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and beyond. He highlighted Pakistan’s facilitative efforts in building regional consensus on the way forward in Afghanistan, including through the Extended Troika mechanism.
He also highlighted various steps taken by Pakistan to support bilateral engagements with Afghanistan, as well as extensive facilitation of international humanitarian assistance. Referring to humanitarian prospects in Afghanistan, which United Nations and international agencies warn will deteriorate further in impending winters, the Foreign Minister stressed that such a scenario could result in mass refugee exodus and provides fertile ground for exploitation by terrorists/ extremists, with regional and international implications.
In a separate meeting with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, the Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States Department of State Victoria Nuland offered condolences over the loss of precious lives in Pakistan due to the super floods. She maintained that the U.S. would support Pakistan in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process. She also reaffirmed that the US would widen its engagement with Pakistan in various areas including climate change, health, energy, and trade and investment. The MOS also discussed the regional situation and emphasized the need for peace, development, and stability in Afghanistan and beyond.
The MOS thanked the US government for the solidarity it expressed with the flood victims by assistance of 55 million dollars and underscored that the recent visits of the US Congressional delegations and the members of Administration to Pakistan were a manifestation of the empathy that the United States had for the flood victims and the people of Pakistan.
She apprised the Under Secretary on the devastation caused by the ravaging floods which directly affected 33 million people with punitive losses to Pakistan. The MOS stressed that even though Pakistan is responsible for less than 1 percent of global emissions it was bearing the brunt of climate crisis. She also highlighted the relief efforts of the Government and emphasized that reconstruction and rehabilitation would require long-term commitments on part of the international community.
The MOS underscored that there was enormous potential for deepening and widening the Pakistan-US bilateral ties, particularly in the areas of trade and investment and in reinforcing people-to-people relations- based on mutual trust and mutual respect. The MOS highlighted the deteriorating situation of the human rights in India and, in particular, how it was affecting the plight of the Kashmiris in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and emphasized the centrality of the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute for the regional peace and stability.
Even the US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has also assured her support for provision of more assistance to Pakistan to cope with the devastating floods. Both sides also discussed the need for sustained engagement in diverse areas including agriculture and climate change. In an interaction with Hina Rabbani Khar, she expressed sympathy on the loss of life and destruction caused by the unprecedented floods.
Khar noted that the US Congress can play an important role in helping vulnerable countries deal with climate crisis. The Minister of State apprised the Congresswoman of the widespread devastation caused by the climate-induced floods in Pakistan. She appreciated the timely assistance already provided by the U.S. government, noting that additional support from the U.S. and the international community would be required to help Pakistan build back better, greener and in a resilient manner.
She said that despite being one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, Pakistan was facing the major brunt of the climate change. She emphasized that the international community must equitably share the burden of climate crisis as it was a global challenge requiring a global response and collective action.