- Pakistan to strengthen the long-standing relationship with US, says Janjua
- Says bilateral relationship not just about Afghanistan
WASHINGTON: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on Friday underscored the need for a constructive approach to Pakistan-United States relations as the two sides held a series of meetings this week towards repairing the strained relationship through a better understanding of each other’s perspectives on Afghanistan and other regional issues.
The Pakistani career diplomat told her American interlocutors that Islamabad remained committed to supporting the goal of Afghan peace and stability but argued that the Pakistan-US bilateral ties were much broader in scope and opportunity and should advance in mutually beneficial ties through the restoration of strategic dialogue.
Janjua emphasised the need for “continuing constructive engagement across the entire spectrum of the bilateral relationship,” the Pakistani embassy said in a statement.
The visit was part of the high-level exchanges between the two countries in the wake of tensions that soared after President Donald Trump’s New Year tweet that accused Islamabad of “backing Afghan militants” and said the country had not done enough in return for US assistance to the tune of billions. Pakistan rejected the charges and said it came out with a measured response to the Twitter criticism.
While in Washington DC Janjua underlined during her meetings that a “mutually beneficial Pakistan-US relationship underpinned by mutual respect would serve the common interests of both countries,” the embassy said.
During her two-day official visit to Washington, Janjua held discussions with senior American officials including US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan at the State Department and Deputy National Security Advisor Dr Nadia Schadlow at the White House.
In the regional context, the foreign secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s “constructive approach” to working together with the US for regional peace and stability.
The diplomat told Washington-based Pakistani journalists that Islamabad was fighting the war against terror in its “own national interest” and not doing so for at the behest of any other country.
She cited the national consensus on fighting extremism and terrorism as laid out in the National Action Plan.
When asked about a reported US drone strike against anti-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants hiding in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Janjua said Pakistan was conveying its deep concern on the issue and that Washington had concurred with Islamabad that the Afghan soil should not be used for terrorism in Pakistan.
Janjua expressed the hope that enhanced economic engagement and realising the economic potential in the relationship could open “new vistas of long-term cooperation, strengthening existing bonds” of friendship between peoples of the two countries.
“Our bilateral relationship is not just about Afghanistan, we have a history of cooperation in several fields, and we have asked the United States to restart the structured strategic dialogue,” Janjua said.
But the TTP militants having a sanctuary in Afghanistan were just one of the security threats her country was facing from Afghanistan, the foreign secretary said.
In this respect, she pointed out the evidence of India fueling terrorism in Balochistan, reminding that the convicted Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav had confessed in great detail to Indian state-sponsored terror in Pakistan perpetrated from the Afghan soil.
Simultaneously, Janjua raised the question of Indian aggressive actions from the eastern border in the disputed Kashmir territory.
“Then there is the threat on the eastern border, where there has been extensive shelling, why are there warlike hostilities on the eastern border?” she said, echoing Pakistani concerns that India wanted to hurt and destabilise Pakistan from both the eastern and western borders.
Turning to Afghanistan, the foreign secretary said Pakistan welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of peace talks to the Afghan Taliban. However, she made it clear that any peace process in Afghanistan had to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.
As for Pakistan’s efforts along the porous Afghan border, Janjua highlighted some of the steps Pakistan had taken to contain militancy and curb the cross-border movement of militants who exploited the porous border for their illegal movement.
“The end objective of both Pakistan and the US is the same – peace and stability in Afghanistan. The modalities can be different so both sides are meeting frequently to find common grounds,” Janjua said, according to an earlier embassy statement.
Responding to a question, she said Pakistan did not have the same kind of influence over Afghan militants, which the country might have had several years ago. She also noted that several other countries had direct contacts with the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan, she said, was also pushing the Afghan Haqqani militants out of its territory as it believed that they were Afghans and should be living in Afghanistan.