WASHINGTON - Emphasizing Pakistan’s critical role to President Trump’s new strategy on South Asia, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Wednesday said Islamabad’s concerns and interests would be accommodated and there was an opportunity to strengthen bilateral ties between Pakistan and the United States.
Talking to newsmen after his meeting with Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif here, Tillerson also stated that the United States wanted the Pakistan government to be stable and peaceful.
Describing US-Pakistan relations as “extra-ordinary”, he said there was an opportunity to strengthen that relationship. “We are going to be working very hard at all levels – from the State Department to the Defence Department, to our intelligence community as well as economic and commerce opportunities,” he said.
On the newly announced strategy on South Asia, Secretary Tillerson said it had a regional approach and Pakistan’s role was critical. “Pakistan is critical to the long-term stability of the region.”
Earlier, Secretary Tillerson and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister held wide-ranging exchange of views on bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest. The Foreign Minister is visiting Washington at Secretary Tillerson’s invitation.
Khawaja Asif told the Secretary of State about the strong public reaction in Pakistan to the pronouncement of US Administration’s South Asia Policy which, he said, was based on inadequate recognition of Pakistan’s sterling contribution in the fight against terrorism.
He added that in addition to huge human and material cost incurred by Pakistan, its cultural ethos as a moderate state had suffered due to protracted instability in Afghanistan.
Secretary Tillerson acknowledged and appreciated the sacrifices rendered by the people and armed forces of Pakistan in the struggle
against terrorism and agreed that cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in Afghanistan was crucial to achieving durable peace and stability in the region.
He said that Pakistan’s interests and concerns would be accommodated since its role was critical to President Trump’s South Asia Strategy. He added that future stability of Pakistan was an important element of the strategy.
Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan and the United States shared a common desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region at large. He emphasized that Pakistan sought a broad-based relationship with the United States building on a seven-decade long history of successful cooperation.
He pointed out that Pakistan was winning its war against terrorism and in contrast to other countries the incidence of terrorism in Pakistan had seen a marked decline – with a salutary impact on economic and commercial activity. This, he added, was made possible because Pakistan had pursued a zero-tolerance and indiscriminate approach in its campaign against all terrorist and militant groups.
The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s position on the need for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political approach to achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan.
He also conveyed Pakistan’s concerns with regard to ungoverned spaces within Afghanistan, from which attacks against it continued to be planned and carried out.
The minister urged the United States to take note of the gross human rights violations being perpetrated by Indian security forces in the occupied Kashmir. He said peace in South Asia would remain out of reach until the resolution of all longstanding disputes, including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
Inviting Secretary Tillerson to visit Islamabad to continue their discussions, the Foreign Minister stressed that a broad-based and structured framework for dialogue would best serve the two countries’ mutual interests.
Secretary Tillerson accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan at an early date. Both the sides agreed to remain constructively engaged with a view to achieving the shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.