Pakistan 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 neighbouring India, restricting many basic freedoms.
“The most powerful country in the world has a responsibility,” said Khan, calling India’s clampdown “a siege” and warning that the “crisis is going to get much bigger”.
Trump responded that he is willing to mediate between Pakistan and India as long as both governments asked for it.
The US President had held an unusual joint rally in Texas with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Trump added that it was “ridiculous” that the United States had been fighting in Afghanistan for 19 years.
However, he made no promises about restarting peace talks with the Taliban.
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 cancelled their visit after a bombing in Kabul killed a US soldier.
Khan said just before meeting Trump that he would be underlining that “there’s not going to be a military solution” in Afghanistan.
“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.
Khan — whose government has sought to use its influence with the Taliban — admitted that Trump’s abrupt ending of talks with Taliban caught him off-guard.
“We read it in the paper. It should have at least been discussed with us,” he said.
Khan, a former cricket star who has long criticised military operations against extremists, discounted the possibility that the internationally recognised 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 a lot of things that happened and I believe they will be more accommodating.”
The Taliban imposed an austere version of Islam on most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, banning music and girls’ education and giving refuge to Al-Qaeda.