Strategic depth policy changed for Afghan peace: PM

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Always wanted a ‘civilised’ and ‘open’ relationship with India


Islamabad

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the ruling PTI had changed Pakistan’s decades-long policy of pushing for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan to ensure that there was a friendly government there.

“Any Afghan government chosen by the people is who Pakistan should deal with,” Premier Imran told Reuters at his official residence in Islamabad.

Imran also said Pakistan “should not try to do any manipulation in Afghanistan”. Imran maintained that a lot depended on US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, with Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s help, to carve out a settlement to avoid more bloodshed.

“Pakistan is pushing for a political settlement in Afghanistan before foreign troops leave later this year, to reduce the risk of civil war in its western neighbour,” Imran said.

The United States has said it will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan on September 11 after a two-decade presence. More than 20 allied countries plan to follow suit.

“There is a lot of fear right now in Pakistan and I assure you that we are trying our level best that there is some sort of political settlement before the Americans leave,” Imran said.

Violence in Afghanistan has risen sharply after the troop withdrawal announcement, with the insurgent Taliban resisting pressure from Washington and its allies to agree to a political understanding leading to a peace deal.

“Since the moment the Americans gave a date, of when they were going to leave Afghanistan … the Taliban feel they have won the war,” Imran said, adding that it was not going to be easy to get concessions from the Taliban after the US decision.

The prime minister said Pakistan would suffer the most, after Afghanistan itself, if there was civil war and a refugee crisis.

“And then there would be pressure on us to jump in and become a part of it,” Imran said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan is ready to restart talks with arch-rival India if Delhi provides a roadmap towards restoring the previous status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

In 2019, India withdrew IIOJK’s autonomy in order to tighten its grip over the territory, sparking outrage in Pakistan, the downgrading of diplomatic ties and a suspension of bilateral trade.

“If there is a roadmap, then, yes, we will talk,” Imran said.
Previously, the prime minister and his government have held that India would have to first reverse its 2019 steps for any normalisation process to begin..”—Reuters