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Can't 'predict' when President Biden will call Pak PM Imran Khan: White House

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a media briefing at the White House. File   | Photo Credit: Reuters

A senior White House official has said that she cannot "predict" when President Joe Biden would make a call to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan though there has been high-level engagements between the two countries.

Prime Minister Khan during recent interviews to the American media has complained that a "busy" President Biden has not bothered to speak to him though Washington was seeking Pakistan's support in stabilising Afghanistan.

Replying to a question during the daily briefing on Monday on whether there could be a call from President Biden to Prime Minister Khan at some point soon, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, "I don’t have anything to predict at this point in time. If they do a call, we will of course read it out to all of you." The media, during the briefing, highlighted that as President Biden was meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, Mr. Khan took to the stage at the U.N. and delivered some "scathing criticism of the U.S.’ actions in Afghanistan and he lamented the lack of direct engagement between himself and President Biden.

Responding to this, Ms. Psaki said that the U.S. has been in touch at very high levels with leaders in Pakistan from the State Department, from the Department of Defence, and from other key components of the Biden administration.

"The President has not spoken with every foreign leader at this point in time; that is absolutely true. But he, of course, has a team — an expert team deployed to do exactly that," she said.

Ms. Psaki said that the U.S. and Pakistan were continuing to "work together and work on initiatives where we can, make clear where we have concern, but I wouldn’t overread into a leader-to-leader call in that particular regard.

"We have high-level engagement from the State Department, Defence Department, and others at this point." On September 27, the State Department announced that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman will travel to Pakistan next month after her trip to India.

Prime Minister Khan, while delivering his UNGA address on September 24, said that Pakistan has been blamed for the turn of events in Afghanistan, by politicians in the United States and some politicians in Europe.

"I want them all to know, the country that suffered the most, apart from Afghanistan, was Pakistan, when we joined the U.S. War on Terror after 9/11," he said. "Unfortunately, in trying to force a military solution is where the U.S. went wrong," he said during his address.

Khan had in the past expressed his disappointment over the US President's reluctance to talk to him since he came to office in January this year.

"He is a busy man", Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan had said curtly about President Biden on September 15.

Mr. Khan admitted that he had not spoken to President Biden since the collapse of the Afghan government.

When asked why Mr. Biden hadn't called him since coming into office in January, PM Khan curtly said: "He is a busy man" and later said Mr. Biden should be asked "why he is too busy to call".

During an interaction with foreign journalists at his residence in August, he had said that he was not really "waiting" for a phone call from Mr. Biden.

"I keep hearing that President Biden hasn't called me. It's his business. It's not like I am waiting for any phone call," he had said in response to a question.

Mr. Khan, who had congratulated President Biden on his inauguration and expressed his desire to work with the new American administration to deepen bilateral ties, had said that Washington sees Pakistan as "useful" only for clearing the "mess" it has left behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting and prefers India when it comes to forming a “strategic partnership”.


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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 10:29:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/cant-predict-when-president-biden-will-call-pak-pm-imran-khan-white-house/article36708359.ece

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