DESPARDES NEWS MONITOR — Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday pressed US President Donald Trump to restart talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban and said Washington has a “duty” to calm the Kashmir standoff with India.
“Stability in Afghanistan means stability in Pakistan,” Khan said at the start of a meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
He also pleaded for help in Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority territory, part of which has been placed under a military clampdown by neighboring India, restricting many basic freedoms.
“The most powerful country in the world has a responsibility,” Khan said, calling India’s clampdown “a siege” and warning that the “crisis is going to get much bigger.”
Trump responded that he would “certainly” help mediate between Pakistan and India as long as both governments asked for this.
Trump during the meeting also aired one of his oldest grievances: that it’s unfair he never got the Nobel peace prize.
“I would get a Nobel prize for a lot of things, if they give it out fairly, which they don’t,” he complained.
On Afghanistan, Trump said it was “ridiculous” that the United States had been fighting there for 19 years.
However he made no promises about restarting peace talks with the Taliban, saying only “we’ll see.”
Trump has frequently called for an end to America’s longest war, launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A senior US diplomat reached a deal to pull troops after a year of negotiating with Taliban militants. Trump abruptly ended talks earlier this month, revealing on Twitter that he had invited Taliban leaders to the United States but canceled their visit after a bombing in Kabul killed a US soldier.
Since then, there has been an uptick in violence in the war-torn country.
On Monday, 35 civilians including children lost lives at a wedding party in Helmand when a Taliban hideout nearby was bombarded by Afghan and US-led forces.
Khan said just before meeting Trump that he would be underlining that “there’s not going to be a military solution” in Afghanistan, which also neighbors Pakistan.
“For 19 years if you have not been able to succeed, you’re not going to be able to succeed in another 19 years,” Khan said in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
Khan – whose government has sought to use its influence with the Taliban – admitted that Trump’s snapping off diplomacy caught him off-guard.
“We read it in the paper. It should have been at least been discussed with us,” he said.
Khan, a former cricket star who has long criticized military operations against extremists, discounted the possibility that the internationally recognized government would be toppled by the Taliban if US troops pulled out.
“I don’t think the Taliban will be able to control the whole country. I think there will be a settlement,” he said.
“I honestly believe that this is not the Taliban of 2001. There are lot of things that happened and I believe they will be more accommodating,” he said.
“We want to be an ally for peace, not war”, Khan had said after being elected PM 13 months ago.