WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to meet US President Donald Trump in New York on Sept 23, hours after he arrives in the city for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, diplomatic sources told Dawn.
The sources said that this could be first of the two meetings the prime minister is expected to have with the US leader during the UN session. This would also be President Trump’s second meeting with a South Asian leader in less than 24 hours.
President Trump is scheduled to address a joint rally with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston, Texas, on Sept 22, hours before he meets the Pakistani leader. President Trump and Mr Modi are also expected to have a separate meeting before or after the rally, focusing on India-Pakistan relations.
The prime minister is expected in New York on Sunday evening, when Mr Trump will be addressing the joint rally of an expected 50,000 American Indians in Houston. Like Mr Khan, most world leaders are also arriving on Monday, launching the high-level debates that will continue till Sept 29.
Both Pakistani and Indian prime ministers are scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Sept 27. Mr Modi will speak first, late Friday morning, while Prime Minister Khan will speak later in the afternoon.
Prime Minister Khan has already announced that he will highlight the Kashmir issue in his address, exposing the ethical and legal bankruptcy of India’s Aug 5 decision to annex the occupied valley.
Indian diplomats in New York and Washington have informed Indian journalists that Prime Minister Modi will not talk about the Aug 5 action or its consequences. Instead, he would repeat New Delhi’s claim that Pakistan may send militants into the valley to take advantage of the volatile situation.
Prime Minister Khan has already made it clear that Pakistan not only opposes all such activities but has also increased its vigilance to prevent militants from taking advantage of the situation. Islamabad fears that India may use infiltrators to carry out violent attacks inside Kashmir and blame Pakistan.
On Wednesday, the prime minister warned citizens against joining the fight in held Kashmir, saying the Indian authorities were waiting for “any excuse” to crack down on the residents in the Himalayan territory.
“If someone from Pakistan goes to India and he thinks he will fight in Kashmir … the first person he will be inflicting cruelty on is the Kashmiris. He will have acted as an enemy of the Kashmiris,” Mr Khan said during a speech in Torkham.
President Trump’s recent comments on Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations have triggered speculations about an indirect dialogue between the two South Asian neighbours during the UNGA, with Washington playing the role of a facilitator.
Earlier this week, President Trump told reporters at a White House briefing that “a lot of progress” has been made in defusing India-Pakistan tensions and his statement has strengthened these speculations.
Now that it’s confirmed that Mr Trump will meet both Indian and Pakistani prime ministers before and during the UNGA, diplomatic observers in Washington say the possibility that he may use the meetings to discuss the situation in Kashmir is stronger than ever before.