Low expectations from Sharif's US visit

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's three-day official visit to the US next week reflects the enduring nature of the bilateral relationship, the White House said.

Washington: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's three-day official visit to the US next week reflects the enduring nature of the bilateral relationship, the White House has said even as top experts noted they had lo expectations from the trip.

President Barack Obama would host Sharif for a meeting at the White House on October 22. This is for the second time that the two leaders would be meeting at the White House.

"The visit will highlight the enduring nature of the US-Pakistan relationship and provide an opportunity to strengthen our cooperation on issues of mutual interest, including economic growth, trade and investment, clean energy, global health, climate change, nuclear security, counterterrorism, and regional stability," the White House said in a statement.

"The President looks forward to discussions with Prime Minister Sharif on ways we can advance our shared interest in a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan," the White House said ahead of Sharif's second trip to Washington during his current term as prime minister.

Sharif is scheduled to arrive in Washington on the night of October 20.

Ahead of the much anticipated visit, which is soon expected to be followed by that of Pakistan army chief Gen Raheel Sharif next month, prominent American experts on Pakistan said that they do not expect much from the visit.

"I think we should keep our expectations low for this visit. We should regard it as more of a courtesy call than a major summit. President Obama invited Prime Minister Sharif some time ago, and this is simply Sharif taking him up on that invitation. We should not expect any splashy announcements or big milestones," Michael Kugelman of the prestigious Wilson Centre think-tank told PTI.

They will talk about the future of Coalition Support Fund (CSF) reimbursements, which Washington has indicated it may phase out. There will be talk about a possible deal to rein in the scale of Pakistan's nuclear programme, he said.

And there will probably also be talk about means of cooperation on counterterrorism, with particular focus on ISIS, Kugelman said.

It is significant that this visit comes shortly after Obama announced his plan to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan, said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.

"During the press conference yesterday, Obama acknowledged that Pakistan had a role to play in Afghanistan by cracking down on Taliban sanctuaries on its soil.

Obama's meeting with Sharif provides an opportunity to reiterate US expectations that Pakistan will indeed crack down on these sanctuaries and use its influence to get the Taliban back to the negotiating table," Curtis said.

"Obama knows, however, that it is not Nawaz Sharif, but Pakistan Chief of Army Raheel Sharif, that calls the shots on Pakistan's Afghan policy. Still, Nawaz can convey the US message to the military leadership," she said.

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