Saturday, January 16, 2021

All is Not Well In Jammu and Kashmir – Top US Diplomat Alice Wells

Alice Wells – the senior US diplomat in the Donald Trump administration has acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in fighting money laundering and terror financing and meeting the demands of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

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“We’ve been pleased to see progress by Pakistan towards fulfilling FATF obligations,” Alice Wells, the US principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs.”

On removal of Pakistan from FATF grey-list, Wells said – “It’s a question of fulfilling the requirements that have been spelled out and that are asked of all countries in the international system. So it’s not a political process, but we certainly support and stand ready to assist Pakistan as it implements these obligations.” “The completion of the FATF action plan is critical to Pakistan’s economic reform efforts, including its IMF program, as well as for demonstrating sustained and irreversible action against all militant groups based in Pakistan without distinction,”  she added.

Wells admitted that if Pakistan fails to meet FATF obligations, it would be disastrous for the country’s economy. “The more evidence of Pakistan’s seriousness in both documenting its economy and in shrinking the space for militants to be able to take advantage of Pakistan’s either banking system or territory, the more confidence the international community and business community will have in working with Pakistan.”

Pakistan hopes to acquire US cooperation in next month’s FATF plenary to get off the ‘grey list’ after a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Joint Group in Beijing this week was informed that Islamabad had addressed 22 points of its action plan.

Wells termed developments regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Act “vigorous democratic scrutiny” while emphasizing the importance of the principle of equal protection under the law. “(My) visit also offered an opportunity to hear more regarding developments with India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which is undergoing I would say a vigorous democratic scrutiny, whether it’s in the streets, by the political opposition, media, and the courts,” said Alice Wells, senior US diplomat for South Asia region, who was recently in India.

She reiterated the US’s demand for quick release of politicians in J&K who are in detention without having been charged with an offense as well as regular access to the region for its diplomats. Briefing journalists in Washington DC, Alice Wells said the US would continue to press for the speedy release of political detainees in J&K.

Wells described the Indian government recently taking US ambassador Ken Juster and other foreign envoys to J&K as a “useful step”, but said American diplomats should be given regular access to the region.

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Wells also emphasized what she termed near-total strategic convergence on Indo-Pacific policies between India and the US, observing that New Delhi’s foreign policy approach has shifted to a more vigorous espousal of Indian interests. “India’s broadening strategic horizons over the past two decades have resulted in a shift away from a passive foreign policy into one that more vigorously advances Indian interests.

Nowhere is that truer than in the Indo-Pacific region. Whether it’s in our growing maritime and naval cooperation, the Quad, India’s Act East Policy, there’s virtually no daylight in our approaches to the Indo-Pacific,” she said.

The US diplomat also appreciated steps taken by Pakistan to advance the Afghan peace process. “Pakistan has important leverage to promote lasting security and stability in Afghanistan,” she observed. “I held meetings with government, military, civil society, and business leaders [in Islamabad].

At the top of the agenda was [an] understanding [on] how we can grow our bilateral relationship commensurate with the cooperation that we are achieving in promoting peace in Afghanistan and regional stability.”

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