US hints at taking into account Pakistani concerns

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WASHINGTON, DC: The United States has made a fresh outreach to Pakistan, seeking the country’s help toward political reconciliation in Afghanistan, which remains mired in multiple issues, including Taliban insurgency and ISIS militancy.

This week US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made calls to Pakistan’s leaders, including interim prime minister and Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, breaking months of stalemate in bilateral relations.

The relations between the two countries nosedived after President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of being complicit in allowing the Afghan Taliban to operate from its soil. Since that New Year tweet, the countries had several discussions at the diplomatic level.

But the bilateral ties showed no visible sign of improvement and plunged further when the two countries imposed tit-for-tat restriction on travel of American and Pakistani diplomats.

Washington’s latest attempt at seeking Pakistan’s support for Afghan peace talks times with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of ceasefire to the Afghan Taliban during Eidul Fitr holidays that follow the conclusion of Ramzan, Islam’s holy month of fasting.

While Washington has long recognised Pakistan’s key role for the success of Afghan peace talks between Kabul, which remains politically torn, and the insurgent Taliban, who have exploited Afghanistan’s chronic lack of governance despite significant US investments.

Speaking in Washington, Lisa Curtis, a senior aide to President Trump on national security, provided some insight into the latest developments in the US-Pakistan relations as well as the imperatives of Afghan peace effort.

“We have asked for Pakistan’s assistance in facilitating a peace process and we have sought to understand Pakistan’s own core security concerns and ensure that its interests are taken into account in any peace process,” Curtis, who serves as senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, said, according to a Voice of America report.

Quite significantly, Curtis also made it clear that the US did not think that a resurgent Taliban could serve Pakistan’s interests.

“However, we have to be clear that Pakistan’s interests are not served by a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan,” she added while speaking at the US Institute of Peace.

She also said it is Pakistan’s primary responsibility to ensure that no elements misuse its territory.

For its part, Islamabad has categorically denied giving refuge to any Afghan groups, including the Haqqanis and has for years pointed out that leaders of the Pakistani Taliban – the group that fights the Pakistani state and has been responsible for thousands of deaths – operate from Afghanistan.

Moreover, Islamabad says it has evidence that India has been backing a low-key insurgency in Balochistan and cites capture of an Indian agent and speeches of Indian BJP nationalist leaders who often threaten to teach Pakistan a lesson and openly oppose China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that passes through Balochistan to connect the two countries with the Indian Ocean via Gwadar Port.

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