Stable Pakistan critical for South Asia’s stability: Tillerson

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WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (APP): Emphasizing Pakistan’s critical role to
President Trump’s new strategy on South Asia, US Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson Wednesday said Islamabad’s concerns and interests
would be accommodated and there was an opportunity to strengthen
bilateral ties between Pakistan and the United States.
Talking to newsmen after his meeting with Foreign Minister
Khawaja Muhammad Asif here, Tillerson also stated that the United
States wanted the Pakistan government to be stable and peaceful.
Describing US-Pakistan relations as “extra-ordinary”, he said
there was an opportunity to strengthen that relationship. “We are
going to be working very hard at all levels – from the State
Department to the Defence Department, to our intelligence community
as well as economic and commerce opportunities,” he said.
On the newly announced strategy on South Asia, Secretary
Tillerson said it had a regional approach and Pakistan’s role was
critical. “Pakistan is critical to the long-term stability of
the region.”
Earlier, Secretary Tillerson and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister
held wide-ranging exchange of views on bilateral and regional issues
of mutual interest. The Foreign Minister is visiting Washington
at Secretary Tillerson’s invitation.
Khawaja Asif told the Secretary of State about the strong public reaction in Pakistan to the pronouncement of US Administration’s
South Asia Policy which, he said, was based on inadequate recognition
of Pakistan’s sterling contribution in the fight against terrorism.
He added that in addition to huge human and material cost incurred
by Pakistan, its cultural ethos as a moderate state had suffered due
to protracted instability in Afghanistan.
Secretary Tillerson acknowledged and appreciated the sacrifices
rendered by the people and armed forces of Pakistan in the struggle
against terrorism and agreed that cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in Afghanistan was crucial to achieving durable peace
and stability in the region.
He said that Pakistan’s interests and concerns would be
accommodated since its role was critical to President Trump’s South
Asia Strategy. He added that future stability of Pakistan was an
important element of the strategy.
Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan and the United States shared a
common desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region
at large. He emphasized that Pakistan sought a broad-based
relationship with the United States building on a seven-decade
long history of successful cooperation.
He pointed out that Pakistan was winning its war against terrorism
and in contrast to other countries the incidence of terrorism in
Pakistan had seen a marked decline – with a salutary impact on economic
and commercial activity. This, he added, was made possible because
Pakistan had pursued a zero-tolerance and indiscriminate approach in
its campaign against all terrorist and militant groups.
The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s position on the need
for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political approach to achieving peace
and stability in Afghanistan.
He also conveyed Pakistan’s concerns with regard to ungoverned
spaces within Afghanistan, from which attacks against it continued to
be planned and carried out.
The minister urged the United States to take note of the gross
human rights violations being perpetrated by Indian security forces in
the occupied Kashmir. He said peace in South Asia would remain out of
reach until the resolution of all longstanding disputes, including the
core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
Inviting Secretary Tillerson to visit Islamabad to continue their discussions, the Foreign Minister stressed that a broad-based and
structured framework for dialogue would best serve the two countries’
mutual interests.
Secretary Tillerson accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan at
an early date. Both the sides agreed to remain constructively engaged
with a view to achieving the shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.