The Biden administration has accepted the appointment of Sardar Masood Khan as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, putting to rest speculations making rounds in the Indian media that the administration had delayed Khan’s agrément.
The announcement was made by Pakistan’s Foreign Office, three days after State Department spokesman Ned Price categorically declared that pakistan remains America’s ker strategic ally.
“The US government has conveyed its agrément to the appointment of Sardar Masood Khan as the ambassador of Pakistan to the United States,” he said. Iftikhar said Mr Khan would “assume his responsibilities in Washington D.C. in due course of time”.
On February 2, the State Department emphatically emphasized America’s strategic partnership with Pakistan, clarifying that Islamabad does not need to strain its relations with China to maintain ties with Washington.
The largely frosty US-Pakistan relationship came up at a State Department briefing on when a journalist referred to a recent statement by Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi who blamed the BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for pushing Pakistan into the Chinese camp.
“Does the State Department agree with Mr Gandhi’s assessment?” the journalist asked the State Department spokesman Ned Price.
But Price skirted his involvement in the Indian political debate, insisting: “I will leave it to the Pakistanis and China to speak to their relationship. I certainly would not endorse those remarks.”
“Why do you think Pakistan is working so closely with China? Do you think they feel abandoned by the US?” the journalist tossed another question, and received an earful response from the State Department spokesman.
“We’ve made the point all along that it is not a requirement for any country around the world to choose between the United States and China,” Price clarified. “It is our intention to provide choices to countries when it comes to what the relationship with the United States looks like.”
He explained how a partnership with the United States brings a series of advantages that China could not offer.
“Partnership may be the wrong term. The sorts of relationships that China has sought to have around the world do not (include those) typical advantages” that the US offered, he added.
Emphasizing the relationship between Pakistan and the US, Price was categorical: “Pakistan is a strategic partner of the United States. We have an important relationship with the government in Islamabad, and it’s a relationship that we value across a number of fronts.”
US-Pakistan relations have remained frosty since President Jose Biden took office. Unlike calling other world leaders, he is yet to extend a courtesy call to Prime Minister Imran Khan. There has been no face-to-face or virtual contact between the top leaders of the two countries since September 2019 when Khan met the former President Donald Trump on the sidelines of UN General Assembly. Trump had earlier hosted the Pakistani prime minister at the White House in July 2019.
Despite being shaky, the relationship has continued, sans the fanfare of contacts at the highest level. Pakistan extended full support to both the Trump and Biden administrations during their talks with the Taliban and facilitated the evacuation of US personnel from Afghanistan after the Taliban captured Kabul in August last year.
Some in Washington do see a little thaw in the relations following a few recent developments such as India’s decision to abstain from a UN Security Council vote on Ukraine and a missile deal with Russia. But all is still not as good as Pakistani diplomats would like which of course anti-Pakistan lobby, especially India, loves.
Campaign against Ambassador Khan
A top Indian group inn the US spearheaded a campaign against Khan’s appointment, urging President Biden to reject his appointment, alleging that the diplomat is a “sympathizer and supporter of terrorist groups”.
Masood Khan, a respected career diplomat, previously served as Pakistan’s permanent representative at the United Nations, besides several other high profile positions. The Indian campaign has left many in Washington and New York (where he served until not very long ago) wondering if India is attempting to make up for its double game of doing both Washington and Moscow’s bidding. Indian lobby has traditionally found Pakistan as a convenient punching bag whenever its relations with Washington are under some sort of challenges, many South Asia watchers inside the Beltway believe.
The Indian organization, Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), in a statement, urged Biden to reject the appointment of the “Jihadi-terrorist-sympathizer” Masood Khan as Pakistani Ambassador to the US.
“We also request Secretary of State Antony Blinken and members of the Senate and House committees on foreign relations to support this rejection,” it said.
The mission of FIIDS, according to its website, is to “focus on helping formulate the correct narrative around the growing influence of the US-India partnership in the 21st century.”
“While few in Washington will pay heed to the little-known Indian organization, it does clarify India’s intentions. All is being done at the behest of New Delhi. It is hellbent on poisoning America’s relations with Pakistan,” said Zainul Abedeen, a New York-based political commentator. He added that the State Department’s latest statement nullifies all such propaganda that will do nothing except damage Pakistan-India relations more than the US-Pakistan relations. “South Asia doesn’t need any more of this bitterness and such hate mongering,” he added.
Pakistan announced Masood Khan’s nomination as the country new ambassador in November last year. His agrément is yet to be approved by Washington, leading to speculations, especially in the Indian media.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office issued a clarification regarding the delay in Khan’s appointment on February 1, stating that the agrément is being processed in the US system.
Responding to the queries of media persons regarding the reports carried by Indian media on Pakistan’s decision to appoint Sardar Masood Khan as Ambassador to the US, Foreign Office Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said this is a part of the wider Indian disinformation campaign to malign Pakistan and those who represent Pakistan by using fake news to make scandalous claims and baseless allegations.
Despite the careful approach of Pakistan’s Foreign Office, there is wide belief in Islamabad that if the US succumbs to lobbying pressure and makes a decision to the dislike of Islamabad, it will damage its shaky relations with Islamabad.
Masood Khan has served as president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from August 2003 to March 2005, before becoming Pakistan’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and International Organisations in Geneva, Switzerland, from 2005 to 2008.
He was also Pakistan’s Ambassador to China during the period of September 2008 and September 2012 and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York, between October 11, 2012 and February 7, 2015.