Pakistan prepares two point agenda for Rex Tillerson visit

Pakistan prepares two point agenda for Rex Tillerson visit

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will remain in touch with the United States administration and her military in Afghanistan on a day-to-day basis as they go for the kill to eliminate militants along the porous Pak-Afghan border, official sources said.

Pakistan – awaiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - would offer to work with the US “as closely as possible” to defeat the terror groups hiding along the border.

“Short of allowing the US military to operate inside Pakistan, we will be ready to cooperate as much as possible. We are hoping to work as closely as possible,” said an official, privy to the ongoing Pak-US talks on the future of the war on terror.

Tillerson is expected in Islamabad on October 24 to hold talks with Pakistani leaders on the future of the partnership. In his one-day visit, he will meet Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and senior military officials to discuss anti-terror fight.

Tillerson is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

According to AFP, Tillerson will stop in Islamabad to try to soothe Pakistani fears about America’s Indian outreach, but also pressure the government to crack down harder on militant groups.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary James Mattis will also visit Pakistan in December this year.

Ahead of his visit, Tillerson described India as a ‘partner’ in a ‘strategic relationship’. Tillerson – who will also visit New Delhi during his South Asian trip - called India an ‘increasingly global’ partner who shared an ‘affinity for democracy and a vision of the future’.

Pakistan had two main agendas for Tillerson’s visit.

“We want the US military to stay away from Pakistan and we will convince the US to keep India out of the Afghanistan issue.

He said Pakistan will assure the US of Pakistan’s sincerity towards the anti-terror war. “We have sacrificed so much in the war on terror. We want to present the facts before Tillerson,” the official explained.

He said Pakistan was ready to enhance intelligence sharing with the US along the Pak-Afghan border to ensure the militants do not find refuge on either side of the Durand Line.

Last week, Pakistan, the US, China and Afghanistan met in Oman to revive the four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group. The meeting tried to find ways of reviving peace talks with Afghan Taliban militants. The Pakistani team was led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.

International relations expert Dr Huma Baqai said the US should acknowledge Pakistan’s success in the war on terror. She said even Afghanistan knew they had not lost as much as Pakistan in the anti-terror campaign.

“Rex Tillerson should not focus on India. We have nothing against their (US-India) bilateral ties but Washington should not impose India on the Afghanistan issue,” she added.

Analyst Dr AZ Hilali said India was misguiding the US against Pakistan. “The world knows India is trying to destabilise Pakistan. The US should consider the realities rather than (giving importance to the) Indian allegations,” he said.

He said Tillerson should be briefed about Pakistan’s losses in the fight against terrorism. “The US should support us in this fight rather than finding faults with us. Hopefully, Tillerson’s visit will be positive,” Hilali said.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Tillerson will meet senior Pakistani leaders to “discuss continued bilateral cooperation, Pakistan’s critical role in the success of South Asia strategy of the US and the expanding economic ties between two countries.”

The efforts to renew partnership come after US President Donald Trump warned Pakistan in August saying: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.”