Blinken meets Pakistan's new foreign minister after ousting of Imran Khan

US-Pakistan ties have been strained for decades but relationship could change under new prime minister

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the UN headquarters on Wednesday. AP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Pakistan's new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in New York on Wednesday, as the two nations look to move on from a complicated and often-fractious relationship under Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan.

Ties between Islamabad and Washington have been strained for decades, with the US long accusing Pakistan of providing support and shelter to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Bilateral relations soured further under former president Donald Trump, who accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit”, though Mr Trump and fellow populist Mr Khan later saw a rapprochement.

Mr Khan, who last month was stripped of power following a no-confidence vote, frequently attacked the US and other western countries, as he sought to distract attention from Pakistan's economic woes.

Sending relations to a new low, Mr Khan made unsupported claims that Washington had led a conspiracy to see him ousted. Mr Khan was replaced as prime minister by Shehbaz Sharif in April.

“We are very pleased to be working with the foreign minister, with the new government in Pakistan,” Mr Blinken said as he met Mr Bhutto Zardari at the UN headquarters in New York.

“We want to focus on the work we’re doing to strengthen our economic and commercial ties between the United States and Pakistan.”

The State Department said the two men discussed expanding partnerships in climate, investment, trade and health, as well as “people-to-people” ties.

“They underscored the importance of US-Pakistan co-operation on regional peace, counterterrorism, Afghan stability, support for Ukraine, and democratic principles,” the department said.

The ministerial meeting at the UN is focusing on food security, a global challenge exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine that has disrupted grain exports.

“Recent geopolitical events have indeed aggravated the situation, and countries like Pakistan have already been facing challenges in food security, water security, energy security because of a whole host of issues ranging from climate change to issues in our neighbourhood,” Mr Bhutto Zardari said.

Pakistan is currently chairing the G77 group of developing nations.

Mr Sharif, 70, is the younger brother of Mr Khan’s predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, who is in self-imposed exile in London, amid corruption charges at home.

Updated: May 18, 2022, 7:12 PM