ISLAMABAD : Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday categorically rejected the nation of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and emphasised that the terrorists bases in Afghanistan are posing a threat to peace in the country.
He was addressing the 4th Round of US-Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue held in Islamabad today with the title ‘Convergence amid Divergence: Identifying Pathways to Cooperation in a Challenging Environment’.
Asif asserted that there are no organised networks of militants that exist in Pakistan, hence Pakistan could not be blamed for terrorist issues in neighbouring countries. He told the participants that Pakistan`s effective counter terrorism efforts have dismantled the surge of terrorist networks and the country is back on the track of development.
The minister urged the visiting US delegation to make efforts to enhance bilateral ties with the US. He said there is lack of trust and therefore both sides should work to build the trust.
The Foreign Minister said with self defence and self-interest as our first priority we are fully committed to protect the sovereignty of our motherland. He said we will also not allow our soil to be used against any other country.
Khawaja Asif said in the era of challenging and complex international relations, states should focus on long term partnerships and cooperation. He said with peace and stability in Afghanistan as our ultimate goal, we have and are ready to extend every effort to achieve that end. However he said Pakistan cannot be blamed for Afghan problems.
The Foreign Minister said Pakistan has also reached out to other regional countries and regional fora like SAARC in its efforts for peace in Afghanistan.
He said intelligence sharing is imperative for improving border management with Afghanistan. He said the United States should share timely intelligence and Pakistan would take action itself. He said Pakistan would continue its fight against terror till elimination of the last terrorist.
Regarding US south Asia Policy and the role of India Khawaja Asif said, the United States has assured us that Indian role in Afghanistan will be limited to economic assistance only. The foreign minister said the role of the United States in ending conflict between India and Pakistan is welcomed.
He said Pakistan welcomes mediation by United States in easing its ties with India as Pakistan has always opted for comprehensive dialogue for peaceful neighborhood.
He emphasized that SAARC should be activated and steps taken for promotion of regional trade as the region has long been suffering due to instability in Afghanistan.
Khawaja Asif said it is unfair to blame Pakistan for what ails Afghanistan today as Pakistan has after great sacrifices eliminated terrorism from its soil and infact the terrorists have save havens in Afghanistan. Therefore theUnited States should do more to eradicate the menace.
Later talking to media, the Foreign Minister said differences in Pak-US bilateral relations are only misperceptions which are being put aside by continued dialogue.
He said the recent high level exchanges between the two countries have cleared the air and we look forward to confidence building so that the goal of peace that remained elusive can be achieved.
To a question regarding Afghan Government`s resolve for peace he said, the Afghan Government should trace and reach out to the elements within its ranks that do not want peace and stability in that country and the region. He pointed out that narcotics and lawlessness are at peak in Afghanistan and the differences in the Afghanistan government is impeding the peace process.
Earlier in his address on the occasion, US ambassador to Pakistan David Hale said peace through political settlement in Afghanistan is our ultimate and common objective.
He said sustainable solutions for regional peace require collective efforts and Pakistan remained on the forefront of all such efforts.
He said we are facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan by enabling that country`s Government and by bringing together all regional stakeholders.
US ambassador said we also focus on easing tensions between India and Pakistan as the two countries are important regional players having crucial role in Afghanistan.
Hale spoke about the new US policy, saying it was based on regional realities and aimed at closing down terrorist safe havens. He added the Taliban will have to be pressurised until they agree to hold talks.
The Track 2-1.5 meeting in Islamabad was attended by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale and Wilson Center Asia Program Deputy Director Michael Kugelman among others.
Kugelman said the relationship between the US and Pakistan was going through a tough phase, but the former would need the latter till US is in Afghanistan. The fourth round of Track 2-1.5 dialogue will end on November 7.
The first round of the dialogue was held in Kabul, second in Washington and third in Islamabad. During the current round, new US policy by President Donald Trump is being discussed, along with other issues.
The dialogue has been organised by Wilson Center, US think-tank, and US Department of State.
Originally published by INP