US assured Pakistan about India’s limited role in Afghanistan: Khawaja Asif

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 6 (APP):Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif Monday said the United States had assured Pakistan that India’s role in Afghanistan under its South Asia policy was limited to economic assistance and the US would not tolerate Afghan soil to be used against Pakistan.
“We also welcome the US role to facilitate normalization of relations with India and to lower tensions along our eastern borders. Pakistan has never shied away from the comprehensive dialogue process in line with our policy of peaceful neighborhood,” he said addressing the fourth round of US-Pak bilateral dialogue titled “Convergence amid divergence: identifying pathways to cooperation in a challenging environment.”
He said Pakistan had also shared the US objective of economic integration of the region through trade and connectivity.
As secretary Tillerson had noted that South Asia remained one of the least integrated region in the world. Pakistan was ready to host the SAARC summit that was in the process of finalizing some major connectivity projects, he said, adding the SAARC remained the only viable organization to achieve this objective.
The minister said the fight against extremism and terrorism was purely in their own self-interest. While they had made significant gains, extremism and terrorism was a global phenomenon and would require international cooperation for times to come.
“We are committed to this fight till we rid our soil of the last remnants and we are equally committed not to let our soil be used against any other country,” he reiterated.
He said both the countries had broad agreement on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. Pakistan would do all it could to further this process, whether in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) or any other regional forum.
“Additionally, we have intensified interactions with Afghanistan and proposed working groups and mechanisms to build trust and cooperation. We have also reached out to neighboring countries to reach common understandings on furthering peace in Afghanistan,” a press release quoted the minister as saying.
However, the minister stressed that the major work has to be done within Afghanistan. Pakistan along with other countries could only facilitate such a process.
Khawaja Asif further said there was no doubt that the current environment in the region and beyond was challenging and complex. The global order was in a flux.
In these uncertain times, states should draw upon partnerships that have been longstanding and have delivered at key moments in the history. Unfortunately, the manner in which the new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia was enunciated had created needless divergence.
“Our interests therefore converge completely in Afghanistan. Where we differ is the ways and means to achieve the end-state,” he added.
In reality, there was hardly any major divergence on their policies both for Afghanistan and the region. The divergences if any were in perceptions. “And perceptions do not take into account that both countries have been allies since the fifties,” he added.
Secondly, guaranteed of an indefinite US support, a conditions-based approach provided no incentives for the Afghan government to reform and come up with an inclusive peace and reconciliation plan.
He said today, Afghanistan faced huge challenges with respect to corruption, building state institutions, transitioning from a war economy, record drugs production, ethnic and tribal divisions, and expanding ungoverned areas. All these were monumental tasks, and all were internal to Afghanistan.
“Therefore, we felt that it was a bit unfair to name Pakistan for all that afflicts Afghanistan. However, subsequent high level interactions have cleared a lot of air and now we understand each other positions much better,” he said referring to US understanding of the issue.
The minister said he could say with some confidence that the pathway to cooperation was quite clear. There existed broad agreement on major issues related to border management, return of refugees, safe havens in Afghanistan etc.
He said Pakistan, after great sacrifices, has been able to dismantle terrorist networks and establish the writ of the government across the length and breadth of the country.
He said they could now claim with a degree of certainty that there was no organized presence of terrorists within Pakistan.
However, considering the porous border and millions of refugees, there might still be remnants of these groups, and the only way to deal with them was more intelligence cooperation, he noted.
About US-Pak cooperation, he said a one takeaway from the successful rescue of Caitlin Coleman and her family was the need for deepening cooperation on intelligence sharing.
He said Pakistan was committed to respond effectively to any actionable intelligence provided by the US. This was the only way forward to test each other’s resolve and commitment to combat terrorism.
The minister also expressed his gratitude to the organizers- RPI and Wilson Centre,for convening the fourth round of bilateral dialogue on an issue that in many ways would impact not only the future of this region but also the larger geo-political trends and shifts that were shaping the world today.