ISLAMABAD - "We believe that the current U.S.-China rivalry is unnecessary and contrary to the interests of both these global powers. Cooperation between them would be beneficial to both and is essential to address the myriad global problems we face—the COVID pandemic, the economic crisis in the developing world and the existential threat of climate change. We hope that both Beijing and Washington will reach the same conclusion in the near future.”, said Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with Newsweek.
Khan discussed his goals and fears for his country and the region, and explained why he believes America must remain engaged in Afghanistan. This conversation, conducted via email, offers a rare glimpse into one of the world's most troubled regions through the eyes of the leader of one of its most important and influential countries.
Khan rose to fame as a cricket star who led Pakistan's national team to its first World Cup victory in 1992. After his sporting career, he began philanthropic work raising funds for medical facilities and research, and established the populist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) in 1996.
Through this party, he capitalized on popular dissatisfaction over corruption, religious discrimination and economic stagnation over the course of the next two decades to rise to the forefront of national politics, securing positions in parliament and rising to prime minister in 2018.
For Americans, the leading concern in the region is that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August could empower militant groups seeking to lash out abroad. Khan says he shares those anxieties.
But his greatest worry doesn't stem from the Taliban, with which Islamabad has fostered close ties. Rather, it's a slew of other outlawed organizations whose aims are more immediately focused on wreaking havoc in the region.
When it comes to China, the Pakistani leader rejects President Joe Biden's hard line as "unnecessary." Khan sees not a rival but a partner, both for his nation and potentially for the U.S. as well.
And at a time when the U.S. is increasingly embracing Pakistan's top rival, India, he emphasizes that Pakistan remains a ready and willing companion in counterterrorism and other endeavors.
Cooperation between the U.S. and all major powers in the region is the only way to avoid catastrophe, Khan says.