Relations between the US and Pakistan may be thawing after the new coalition government took over and in a fresh development, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and extended an invitation to him to a food security meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on May 18. This is perhaps the first top-level contact between the two countries after the Biden government occupied the White House. Earlier, the US government had adopted a policy of no engagement with the Imran Khan government after the humiliating exit of the US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan last year. For these reasons, the Biden government had signed off the Pakistani government. When Imran Khan’s government was toppled through a no-trust motion in March last, the PTI chairman blamed the US for conspiring against him. Before that, former prime minister Imran Khan toured Russia the day when Moscow invaded Ukraine. Imran Khan’s tour and other statements triggered a backlash from the US and the European Union. The call from Mr Blinken to Mr Bhutto-Zardari is a welcome step, and hopefully, during the two-day ministerial conference, both counterparts will also meet on the sideline of the conference. The foreign minister tweeted about the development: “Received a call from Secretary Blinken. Grateful for warm felicitations on my assumption of office… Exchanged views on: “Strengthening mutually beneficial, broad-based relationship, the promotion of peace, development & security and agreed engagement with mutual respect is the way forward between the US and Pakistan”.
The conference will address the threat to global food security in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Pakistan itself is facing a food shortage due to hostile weather and expensive agricultural inputs. Other than food security, the world is in the grip of high inflation rates, and Pakistan is among the worst sufferers. The US intervention can also help Pakistan secure a relief package from the International Monetary Fund on soft terms. The Biden government’s change of policy would help Pakistan in many ways, and ultimately, Afghanistan will also be the beneficiary of the friendly terms between the US and Pakistan. A US State Department readout has also highlighted several key points of the conversation between the two high officials of the US and Pakistan that focused on strengthening the bilateral relationship and working together to stabilize Afghanistan. The other areas when the attention is required are climate, investment, energy, education, and health. Pakistan and the US have been allies for seven decades, and this year marks the 75th anniversary of US-Pakistan relations. Hopefully, the two countries will open up a new chapter of ties to strengthen broad-based bilateral relationships.