Desperate Islamabad now turns to 'influential' Pakistani American to arrange Biden-Imran telecon

Desperate to break the ice with US President Joe Biden who has not interacted even once with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan despite being in office since January, Islamabad is now using the “good offices” of an influential Pakistani American to arrange a telephone call between the two leaders

Oct 04, 2021
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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

Desperate to break the ice with US President Joe Biden who has not interacted even once with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan despite being in office since January, Islamabad is now using the “good offices” of an influential Pakistani American to arrange a telephone call between the two leaders.

After months of wait, PM Imran Khan has sought to downplay the telephone call issue as in one of his recent interviews, saying he understood the president might be busy. The White House has said that it was not aware of any such interaction being planned in the near future 

Sources, however, said Pakistan is making efforts and now using informal channels to reach out to President Biden. For this purpose, Pakistan approached an ‘influential’ Pakistani American to arrange a telephone call between the two leaders. The influential Pakistani American - who has not been identified - is said to be a friend of President Biden and Islamabad is trying to use his "good offices" to lobby with the White House.

Though White House has not given any clear explanation as to why Biden has continued to avoid a telephone call with Imran, observers believe it suggests Pakistan, perhaps, is no more a priority for the US, according to The Express Tribune.

In what could have rubbed salt into Islamabad’s wound, Biden has not only had multiple telephonic and conversations with Pakistan’s regional rivals and neighbor, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the two leaders have also met in person recently in Washington. 

In contrast, Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, despite being critical of Pakistan during his election campaign, even didn't wait for his swearing-in ceremony to speak to then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

In the past also, Pakistan has used informal channels to communicate with US presidents. During Trump's term, Pakistan established direct contact with the US president using his son-in-law and the Saudi crown prince.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who was said to be impressed with PM Imran Khan's vision, also played a key role in establishing Trump-Imran contact.

It was because of those channels that Trump and Imran met thrice in a short span.

But the current administration under Biden returned to the traditional approach routing everything through the established bureaucratic infrastructure.

The sources said Pakistan feels direct contact at the leadership level between the two countries is vital to share and understand each other’s perspectives..

Biden is not new to Pakistan since he has vast experience in dealing with Islamabad first as head of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then as Vice President.

He was the original mover of the Kerry-Lugar Act that tripled civilian aid to Pakistan, Pakistani media noted. 

Observers believe that Biden's prior experience of dealing with Pakistan perhaps is working to Islamabad’s disadvantage.

Nevertheless, Pakistani policymakers consider the country's relationship with the US vital and that is why efforts are still on to stay engaged with Washington.

Pakistan feels that despite the US drawdown Washington and Islamabad still need to work closely with each other for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and is now seeking to broaden the relationship by often comparing with the multifaceted ties that the US has with India.

(SAM)