Pakistan's new ambassador to the United States, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, has been in his post for only 12 days but already is busy trying to explain the profound changes in Washington to his government in Islamabad.
Chaudhry hosted a group of U.S. journalists Friday at the Pakistani Embassy, where one asked what he was saying in his cables about President Trump and his administration.
The ambassador let out a laugh and said: “I'll be very candid about it. What I tell them is, the United States is an important country. And it is an important relationship. The administration is one part of it. There's Congress. There are think tanks. We want to deal with all of them.”
Asked specifically about Trump, who has made incendiary statements about Muslims and issued a travel ban from six majority-Muslim nations (not including Pakistan), Chaudhry was tight-lipped. He simply quipped, “It's your country, your choice.”
Chaudhry took pains to issue no criticism of Trump, saying it was important that Pakistan develop close ties with the new administration — because of the two countries' shared goal of defeating Islamic State terrorists and because of Pakistan's strategic role as what he called “a bridge” between the United States and China.
Underscoring the importance Islamabad places on its relationship with Trump's Washington, Chaudhry was dispatched to the United States as an envoy after having served as foreign secretary for 3½ years. He noted that he could have gone to Beijing, one of the most critical postings for Pakistani diplomats, but came to Washington because of the “vital importance” of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
Of utmost importance for Pakistan, Chaudhry said, is collaborating with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State. He said his government has “zero tolerance” for violence, in Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan, where the terrorist group has gained a foothold.
Chaudhry's predecessor, Jalil Abbas Jilani, spoke optimistically about the Trump presidency in an interview with The Washington Post last month before his departure.
“President Trump is getting very good media coverage in Pakistan,” Jilani said. “When people look at the elements of his foreign policy platform, the signals for the new administration are all seen as positive developments.”