Published On: Sun, Dec 29th, 2013
Published in Category: Islamabad

2014 US withdrawal: Pakistan, India send career diplomats to Washington

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India have sent most experienced diplomats to protect their interests in the American capital as the United States prepares to redefine its role in South Asia in 2014.

The new Pakistani ambassador, Jalil Abbas Jilani, arrives in Washington on Saturday, almost eight months after the previous envoy, Sherry Rehman returned home when her party lost the general elections in May.

The new Indian ambassador, S Jaishankar, arrived on last Monday but he too will resume his office early next week, after the Christmas and new year holidays. Jilani was serving as foreign secretary before his new assignment.

As foreign secretary, Jilani visited the United States twice with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in September to attend the UN General Assembly in New York and in October for the summit meeting with President Barack Obama. He also visited the United States with the former foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar and attended all key meetings between Pakistani and American leaders.

Jilani also served at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, from 1995 to 1999 and from here he went to New Delhi. Jilani is the first career diplomat to head Pakistan’s mission in Washington after Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who left the embassy in 2004 to represent the United Nations in Iraq.

After Rehman, the embassy was run by deputy chief of mission, Asad Majeed Khan for eight months.
In media interviews before his departure, Jilani said his top priority in Washington will be to build on the positive momentum created during Ambassador Rehman’s short tenure.

In 2011, when the CIA discovered and eliminated Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, US-Pakistan ties hit the rock bottom.

The Raymond Davis affair and the US air raid on Salala check post that killed 28 Pakistani soldiers further strained the relations.

The US-Pakistan relationship will enter a new phase in 2014 when the United States plans to withdraw most of its combat troops from Afghanistan.
Pakistanis fear that if India is allowed to fill the vacuum created after the withdrawal, it will cause new problems for Islamabad.

The Pakistanis already blame India of using the Afghan territory for stirring troubles in Balochistan and want the Americans not to ignore Islamabad’s interests in their haste to quit Afghanistan.
India has similar concerns about Pakistan: they do not want the Americans to give Pakistan a key role in the post-2014 Afghanistan.

Ambassador Jaishankar also comes amid a raging diplomatic row over the arrest of senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges in New York earlier this month.
Till recently Jaishankar was India’s Ambassador to China and known as one of the brightest foreign service officials of his generation, Jaishankar played a key role in the India-US civilian nuclear deal.

Jaishankar, who is proficient in Russian, and knows Japanese and Hungarian, succeeds Nirupama Rao. He was also the press secretary of the president of India from 1994 to 1995.
From 2000 to 2004, he was India’s ambassador to Czech Republic and was the high commissioner of India to Singapore from 2007 to 2009.