13:42 GMT17 February 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): India will closely watch next week’s White House meeting between US President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, especially on matters of security and possible changes in Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, Indian analysts believe.

    Former Indian diplomat K.P. Fabian and Sushant Sareen, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, an Indian strategic and foreign policy think tank, say they don’t see the US backtracking on its current suspension of security assistance to Pakistan given the latter's not keeping to its promise of "irreversibly ending terrorism from its soil".

    Sareen said he views the Pakistani prime minister’s Washington visit on Monday as really being more about Pakistan's Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s interaction with “movers and shakers” in the US.

    "The grapevine is that the real conversation will happen between them (General Bajwa and the movers and shakers in the US)”, he said.

    He maintained that President Trump will be calling the shots in what is to be discussed during his scheduled one-hour meeting with Prime Minister Khan, apparently set up by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

    “This is something that is going to happen at a completely different level than what has happened in previous meetings. The current dispensation in the US is basically a one-man show. He (Trump) calls the shots. So whatever the bureaucracy might be saying or the understanding they reach, they have no real meaning”, Sareen said.

    “Clearly this meeting was set up at some back channel without the entire system being taken into the loop”, he added.

    Former Indian Ambassador K.P. Fabian, meanwhile, said he expects President Trump and Prime Minister Khan to discuss the Kashmir issue and Afghanistan.

    While Ambassador Fabian said Imran Khan “may again pitch for keeping India out of Afghanistan because they (New Delhi) can’t contribute anything whereas we (Pakistan) can contribute a lot”, Sareen said it’s a “no brainer” that the focus would be on Afghanistan.

    On Kashmir, Ambassador Fabian said Imran Khan in all probability would highlight his conciliatory outreach towards India over the last year and emphasise the need for Washington to cajole New Delhi to reopen dialogue with Islamabad.

    The former diplomat said Imran Khan could also use his meeting with President Trump to convince him to have a rethink on the India-centric Indo-Pacific policy, keeping in mind the possible drawbacks.

    China’s role in Pakistan, too, would figure in the discussions both analysts said, but added that it would be limited to Imran Khan possibly projecting that Islamabad remain an equal strategic and economic partner with both Washington and Beijing.

    The two said they expect Islamabad to receive some economic sops during the visit.

    Pakistan will also try to establish some sort of chemistry between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump and attempt to impress the Americans about the “bona fide of the Pakistanis”, Sareen concluded.

    The views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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