US hints at softer approach towards Pakistan

US hints at softer approach towards Pakistan

NEW DELHI : The U.S. is not “walking away from Pakistan”, says a senior State department official visiting the region, but while Pakistan has taken “initial constructive steps” against terrorists operating on its soil, they aren’t yet irreversible.

U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells also described as “positive steps” by Prime Minister Abbasi government’s moves to designate Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad under Pakistan’s domestic laws, as well as a crackdown on charities run by the LeT

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper she also welcomed that Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa’s comments on ending proxy terrorist groups.

“I was heartened by the press comments by General Bajwa where he said things like the ‘state must have the monopoly on violence’, and there is ‘no role for non-state actors’…. Those are extremely positive statements and now I think the challenge is to see them implemented. We are certainly in a very good faith conversation with Pakistan,” Ms. Wells said during her visit to Delhi, where she met with senior MEA and PMO officials on national security.

Ms. Wells’ comments could indicate a softer position by the U.S. on Pakistan, coming close on the heels of new Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday, committing to closer engagement on fighting terror.

When asked, Ms. Wells denied any U.S.-hand in the Afghan-Pakistan talks, but her ongoing visit to the region, including travels to Tashkent, Islamabad, Delhi and Kabul discussed the next steps in the Trump administration’s “South Asia policy” for Afghanistan.

“I would say, bear with us, this isn’t the end of our diplomatic game. We are continuously engaging in Pakistan because we do see the need for change,” Ms. Wells told The Hindu when asked about further steps against Pakistan if it fails to act against terror groups.