US top diplomat responds over question of use of Afghan soil by India against Pakistan

US top diplomat responds over question of use of Afghan soil by India against Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells on Tuesday said the United States respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan and would never support terrorist proxies or separatism against it.

She was responding to a question regarding India using Afghan soil to create insurgency in Pakistan, at a media interaction held here at the US Embassy.

Ambassador Wells, who arrived here Monday on a two-day visit, during her stay met key government officials including finance adviser, foreign secretary, interior secretary and the army chief to discuss bilateral agenda and regional security including joint efforts to advance Afghan peace process.

When sought comments on reports of Indian funding to Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, Ambassador Wells said the US did not support any separatist or irredentist movement.

“It is critical that the nations of this region respect each other and work to achieve peace and economic growth,” she said.

Under the Financial Action Task Force plan, she expressed hope that Pakistan would make efforts to meet the specific requirements including identification of high-risk threats in society and denying them the ability to fund-raise and organise.

She said the US had been actively working with Pakistan to combat terrorism, whether it was Al-Qaeda or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. “Any terrorist attacking Pakistan is an enemy of ours. We share very strong counter-terrorism objective in defeating extremist forces,” she stressed.

On implementation of National Action Plan (NAP), she said the steps briefed by the Pakistan government to the

diplomatic community were positive regarding the detention of leaders of proscribed groups and seizure of assets. “We certainly believe what peace brings economic growth and stability, which conforms with the Prime Minister’s agenda of Naya Pakistan aspiring development,” she said.

She welcomed PM Imran Khan’s statements underscoring his government’s commitment to moving away from non-state actors through forging the NAP and said “Pakistan’s future course requires that the state itself controls all means of force.”

On UNSC’s deadlock on proscribing Maulana Masood Azhar following China’s veto, she said the US believed that designation of terrorist should be technical in nature and added that “We encourage the parties to move forward and reaffirm the centrality of UN’s role in designating terrorists.”

On US’ concerns on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Ambassador Wells said the US welcomed the development, however believed that the infrastructure and investment needed to meet international standard, with transparency and sustainability.

She said the apprehensions were not Pakistan-specific as the US had also expressed voice with regard to other countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Ambassador Wells, who accompanied US Special Representative on Afghanistan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad during his meetings with officials in Islamabad, said Pakistan would benefit more than any other country if peace comes to this region.

She welcomed the support of government of Pakistan for bringing Afghans together for peace dialogue, adding that the Prime Minister’s recent strong statement in support of reduction of violence in Afghanistan was encouraging.

To a question on India’s lukewarm response to Pakistan’s peace efforts, Wells said regional disputes hindered the ability of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) to play an effective role in region’s prosperity and growth.

The US welcomes Prime Minister Imran Khan’s open desire for better relations with India, she added.

On Kashmir issue, she said, “We support efforts by Pakistan and India, but it is up to them to pace up discussions.”

Ambassador Wells rejected the impression of receding Pak-US trade ties and said, “Our trade relationship is extremely healthy as we remain Pakistan’s largest export market with bilateral trade reached at highest level with US6.6 billion US and Pakistani exports increased by four percent.”

She termed freedom of expression as vital part of democracy, quoting example of her country where press and activists could express opinion freely as a check on abuse of power and a mirror that can be held up to government practices.

Monitoring Desk adds: US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has concluded two days of official discussions in Pakistan on how to advance the Afghan peace process. “Ambassador Khalilzad requested and received support for the need to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations as well as a reduction in violence, concrete steps necessary for a comprehensive settlement,” the US embassy noted Tuesday in a post-visit statement.