FM urges US to support Pakistan on political, economic mainstreaming of tribal areas

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ISLAMABAD, Jan 17 (APP):Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has urged on the United States to work with Pakistan as it politically mainstreams and economically develops the former tribal areas.

Speaking at an event of reputed American think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on ‘Reframing the US-Pakistan strategic relationship’ in Washington D.C late Thursday, the Foreign Minister said supporting economic activity along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border would benefit both sides.

FM Qureshi in a conversation moderated by CSIS President John J. Hamre, Senior Vice President Daniel F. Runde and Senior Adviser Seth G. Jones, touched several issues of regional and global importance ranging from Afghan peace, US-Iran standoff, Jammu and Kashmir situation and Pak-US bilateral ties.

Qureshi stressed that the recent tension between the US and Iran must not that put any negative impact on the peace process in Afghanistan, adding that “Having come this far, there should be zero-tolerance for any set-backs.”

He said both Pakistan and the US had “shed too much blood and expended too much treasure” and now must “honor the memory of our fallen soldiers and countrymen by successfully accomplishing the mission in Afghanistan.”

He said Pakistan had long argued that there was no military solution to Afghanistan with Prime Minister Imran Khan one of the first leaders in the region who consistently advocated a political route towards peace in Afghanistan.

Considering Afghanistan a shared responsibility, he said Pakistan was playing its role and warned the stakeholders to be vigilant against “spoilers” as “not every country in the broader region wanted to see peace in Afghanistan”.

The Foreign Minister called upon the US to ensure phased and orderly withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan to not repeat the mistakes of ’80s.

“Continued international engagement for reconstruction and sustained development, would be pivotal,” he said, mentioning its positive outcome for honorable return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

The Foreign Minister pointed out that Pakistan and the US must not remain hostage to the Afghan conflict and instead, take a fresh look to enrich their historic relationship by working together for Afghan peace.

“We want this rather unhelpful framework to change. Pakistan-US relations are too significant, and possess too huge potential to be confined to the Afghan prism alone,” he said.

Qureshi said his recent visits to three capitals; Tehran, Riyadh and Washington, was on instruction of Prime Minister Imran Khan to convey Pakistan’s message to remain “partner for peace rather than be a part of any war in the region”.

He mentioned that Pakistan had close ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran and recalled that the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington looked after Iranian interests in the United States since Islamic Revolution.

“Deeply cognizant of the security and economic perils that a new war or a military confrontation entails, Pakistan has been ready from the outset to support efforts for defusing tensions and removing misunderstandings,” he said.

He said Pakistan welcomed the indication given by both the US and Iran to de-escalate tensions and clearly saw space for diplomacy. “Teetering on the brink, the world is direly yearning to see a glimmer of hope,” he added.

On situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Qureshi said Indian state terrorism and repression in the Valley and the BJP government’s incitement of religious hatred and frenzy in India had dangerous implications for the region.

“The adherents of Hinduvta and Akhand Bharat have established their ascendency with disastrous consequences for all in India and the world to see,” he said.

Qureshi said the Indian narrative that Kashmir was its “internal matter” was firmly refuted by its being on the Security Council agenda.

Equally insulting to the intelligence of the world community is the bizarre Indian argument that it is for “economic development” of the Kashmiris — Yes, economic development being delivered at gun point by over 900,000 occupation troops,” he said.

If not addressed, he warned that crisis in Kashmir had the potential to become a flashpoint between two countries with strategic capabilities.

He expressed the hope that US President Donald Trump, who offered mediation on Kashmir, would be successful in realizing his goal and could make a lasting contribution to sustainable peace in South Asia.

Qureshi pointed out that “force-fitting Pakistan-China relations into the currently popular framework of “great power competition” distorts the picture” and stressed that “far from being suspicious of CPEC, supporters of peace in the region should welcome the project.”