- Asif tells US envoy Pakistan wary of India’s increasing involvement in Afghanistan
- Hale says Pakistan needs to act against Haqqani network as wellISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday insisted that India’s growing influence in South Asia, especially after Trump’s “pro- India” Afghan policy, is a threat to the peace process in the region, amid the United States reiterations of “do more” and “elimination of the militants safe havens” from the country.
Addressing the fourth round of US-Pakistan dialogue in Islamabad, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the growing presence of India has given birth of chaos in the region and it is a threat to reconciliations process, while asserting there were no organised networks of militants in Pakistan as they also pose threat to Pakistan’s stability.
He, along with US Ambassador David Hale, was speaking at a dialogue, titled ‘Convergence amid Divergence: Identifying Pathways to Cooperation in a Challenging Environment’, arranged to ponder options to ease the strain in Pakistan-US ties.
Commenting on the ‘do more’ repetitions by the US, the foreign minister said there were no terrorist havens in Pakistan and the country is not ready to take the blame for instability in Afghanistan; he further said there was an immediate need to destroy of the terrorists’ safe havens in Afghanistan.
Additionally, Asif expressed concerns over India’s increasing involvement in Afghanistan, saying the US Afghan policy—announced by President Trump in August this year— was damaging the reconciliation process in the worn-torn country.
Upon which, the US ambassador apprised that the US’s new policy in Afghanistan was aimed at targeting the safe havens of terrorists in the region and to bring about economic uplift in the South Asian region. He also expressed confidence that Pakistan has shown resolve in speeding up the process of restoring peace in Afghanistan.
The minister later told journalists that the US assured Pakistan that New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan would be limited to providing economic assistance to the war-torn Afghanistan.
The minister also welcomed the mediation efforts by the US in the betterment of relations with India, saying that Pakistan always preferred a comprehensive dialogue with its eastern neighbour that could contribute to peace in the region, Radio Pakistan reported.
Hale once again asserted the US demand that Pakistan should take decisive action against terrorist groups, and urged Pakistan to refrain from selective anti-terror operations. “We ask for equal diligence in decimating all the groups operating in Pakistan, which threaten the region’s stability, including the Haqqani Network,” David Hale said. Hale also highlighted that another important feature of the new US policy is to pressurise the Taliban to resolve the regional issues through dialogue. A similar demand was conveyed by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during an earlier visit to Pakistan last month.
INTELLIGENCE SHARING ONLY WAY FORWARD
Pakistan and US both have a lot of work to do in fighting negative perceptions, Asif said, adding Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts have prevented “countless” militant attacks in the US and Europe.
Terming self-defence a top priority, the minister remarked Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used against any other country. “We are ready to extend all possible cooperation to achieve the goal of stability in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that Pakistan also reached out to regional countries and forums like South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in this regard.
Asif said intelligence sharing is vital for improving border management with Afghanistan, adding that the US should share timely intelligence so that Pakistan can take action.
Talking to reporters, Asif said differences in Pak-US bilateral ties are only misconceptions which are being removed by continued dialogue. He added that recent high-level exchanges between the two countries have helped relieve the tension in the relationship.
The Track 2-1.5 meeting being held in Islamabad was attended by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale and Wilson Center Asia Program Deputy Director Michael Kugelman among others.
Also present on the occasion, Kugelman acknowledged that bilateral ties between Pakistan and the US are passing through tough times but stressed on collaboration between the two countries until the US is present in Afghanistan.
The fourth round of Track 2-1.5 dialogue will conclude on November 7. The first round of talks was held in Kabul, second in Washington and third in Islamabad. During the current round, new US policy by President Donald Trump is being widely discussed, along with other issues. The dialogue has been organised by Wilson Center, US think-tank, and US Department of State.