Almost six months after their ‘remarkable and unprecedented’ telephonic conversation, US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will get a first chance to speak to each other face-to-face later this week.
Both leaders are among around two dozen heads of governments and states who are gathering in Saudi Arabia on May 21 for US-Arab Islamic summit.
Foreign Office officials confirmed to The Express Tribune that efforts were underway to arrange a maiden bilateral meeting between Trump and Nawaz at the sidelines of the summit.
The meeting, if takes place, will provide an opportunity to both sides to listen to each other’s perspective as well as concerns on a range of issues covering bilateral cooperation and current regional and international issues.
A senior Pakistani official, who requested not to be identified since he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the prime minister was already preparing a ‘brief’ for a possible interaction with the US president.
The official said the ‘brief’ includes the country’s position on Afghanistan’s current situation and the way forward and current tensions with India.
On both issues, officials here believe, the US administration can play a more proactive role in order to avoid regional countries pitting against each other for their strategic interests.
Some of Trump’s aides have publically expressed concerns over the deteriorating Indo-Pak ties raising hopes that Washington may eventually intervene.
Before Trump’s election, there were apprehensions that he could bring radical changes in its foreign policy especially in South Asia.
But just weeks after he won the US presidential elections, he spoke to the prime minister by phone. That telephonic conversation had made headlines across the globe because of Trump’s unprecedented praise for Nawaz’s leadership as well as for Pakistan.
Islamabad released a full transcript of the telephonic conversation in which Trump reportedly said he would love to come to “a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people.”
“Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people,” the US leader had told the prime minister.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon,” the statement quoted Trump as saying.
Trump was all praise for the Pakistani people as he said it was an amazing country with tremendous opportunities with “most intelligent people.”
His unusual praise for Pakistan and its prime minister was in total contrast to some of the statements he made previously about the country.
While the Trump may have faced flak from the media back home, Pakistani authorities took it as an opportunity to reset the troubled ties with the United States under the new administration.
Since Trump formally took over as the US President in January, he has not yet explicitly spoken on Pakistan except that telephonic call with the prime minister. Officials here are encouraged by the fact that since four months into the office, the new US government has not given any negative statement on Pakistan.
The likely meeting between Trump and Nawaz would come against the backdrop of reports that the US administration is all set to announce a policy on Afghanistan.
Trump’s military aides have indicated that more troops would likely be deployed in Afghanistan to break the stalemate. The increased foreign troops in the neighbouring country means that Pakistan would remain critical for the US when it comes to putting a peaceful end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.