Pakistan’s influence over Taliban has eroded due US drone strikes on peace talks in past

Pakistan’s influence over Taliban has eroded due US drone strikes on peace talks in past

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the United States should find common ground to work and it would be a mistake to squander a relationship that benefitted both for seven decades, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said in an interview to an American national radio.

“We would like to have good relations with the United States, there is no doubt about it,” the Ambassador told NPR (National Public Radio) aired early Saturday.

“The two countries have worked together for seven decades, and we think it would be a mistake to squander that relationship.”

“Both countries have benefited from that relationship. And if that relationship goes down, I think both countries are going to lose,” he added.

Ambassador Chaudhry said that the tweet by President Trump was a “great disappointment” and surprised Islamabad as it came amid a conversation at the highest level that was focusing on finding common ground to work together.

He was referring to the visits by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis who visited Pakistan in October and December respectively last year. “We were having those conversations. The idea was, to use the words of Secretary Mattis, find that common ground where two countries have to work.”

The Ambassador said the two countries should find common grounds, and not engage in a “coercive or disrespectful” relationship, adding that Islamabad believed in a relationship based on mutual respect and mutual trust “and I think that’s where the future should lie”.

Replying to a question on Afghanistan, the Ambassador underscored Pakistan would lose, not gain, from violence in Afghanistan. “We are the only country that will benefit the most, apart from the people of Afghanistan, if peace returns to Afghanistan,” he said and posed a question as to why would Islamabad support any element that would destabilize Afghanistan, and in turn bring instability to Pakistan.

More than 200 people were killed in a spate of deadly attacks in Afghanistan last month that were claimed by Taliban. Ambassador Chaudhry expressed disappointment over accusations by Kabul which linked them to Pakistan.

"We condemn those attacks, the innocent lives [that] have been lost. Our foreign minister was in the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad, and we commiserate with the people and government of Afghanistan.”

But, he added, it was disappointing to see Kabul’s only reaction, which is to blame Pakistan for anything that happens in that country, no matter what. He said that externalizing its own problems would not help the Afghan government deal with the issue at hand.

Asked about a solution to the violence in Afghanistan, the Ambassador stated that there has to be a comprehensive approach and an engagement in a genuine political dialogue between all Afghan factions.

“We don't want to be party to it. We think that it should be between Afghan government and all Afghan factions, the Taliban must be made to be part of that process,” the Ambassador said, adding that Pakistan twice tried to facilitate a reconciliation process, including a four nations moot that involved Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China.

During the second such attempt, the four nations came together to meet the Taliban and persuaded them that they must give up violence, but the talks stalled after a news leak about the death of their supreme leader. He noted that since then Pakistan’s influence on Taliban had eroded.

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