UPDATE – Trump says US, Pakistan seeking 'tremendous' potential


By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. and Pakistan are seeking to meet the "tremendous potential" in their bilateral ties, President Donald Trump said Monday.

"We haven't met the potential of either country," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office while hosting Pakistani Premier Imran Khan. "I think the potential with Pakistan, and likewise the opposite way, we haven't come close to meeting it."

Khan is in Washington for his first visit to the U.S. since become prime minister in August 2018. The leaders are expected to address a range of bilateral issues, including the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, security and energy cooperation and trade.

Also on the table is the resumption of some $1.3 billion in annual security aid to Pakistan that Trump severed last year over concerns that Islamabad was not doing enough to combat militant groups.

"To be honest I think we have a better relationship with Pakistan right now than we did when we were paying that money. But all of that can come back depending on what we work out," Trump said. "We are working on things that are very, very important."

Khan further said he will be asking the U.S. president to help establish peace with India, saying the subcontinent's people "are held hostage to the issue of Kashmir."

"Only the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together," said Khan. "We have made all overtures to India to start dialogue, resolve our differences through dialogue, but unfortunately we haven't made headway as yet."

Trump expressed a willingness to take up the herculean task, saying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to mediate.

"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. It’s impossible to believe two incredible countries that are very, very smart with very smart leadership can’t solve a problem like that," Trump said.

India, however, denied Modi made the overture and quickly rejected any role for the U.S. in the talks citing its policy "that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally."

"Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism. The Shimla Agreement & the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India & Pakistan bilaterally," Raveesh Kumar, the spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs, said on Twitter.

Kashmir has been contested by India and Pakistan since 1947 when each country seized portions of the territory. Both countries claim the Himalayan territory in full.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.