Islamabad has accused of India of promoting terrorism via the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) using the Afghan soil and creating havoc in the country, but the US does not seem to be convinced by the narrative. Meanwhile, both the US and Pakistan have agreed to work on the Afghan peace process and bring peace to the region.
The understanding was reached during an important meeting wherein Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, US Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation and Ambassador Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, held delegation-level talks with Pakistani officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a day earlier.
As per a handout issued by the Foreign Ministry, the two sides reviewed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace process. It was underlined that this was a historic opportunity to end the prolonged Afghan conflict for which all local stakeholders, as well as Afghanistan’s neighbours, had an important role to play.
“Pakistan reiterated its support for intra-Afghan dialogue, which is vital to move the process forward. It was highlighted that the prospective agreement in Afghanistan must contribute to bringing lasting peace and stability leading to international cooperation and development in Afghanistan.”
The delegation of Pakistan also emphasized the need for creating a conducive environment in Afghanistan for early and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland, as per the FO’s statement.
The two sides reviewed the state of engagement and cooperation between Pakistan and the United States on a range of bilateral issues including political, economic and consular matters, the statement added.
‘NO EVIDENCE AGAINST INDIA’
Meanwhile, while interacting with journalists at the US Embassy, Alice Wells said that US does not have the evidence of India using Afghan soil against Pakistan.
The statement appears to suggest that the US is far from convinced with Pakistan’s narrative on India. Pakistan has long been expressing its concerns regarding India using the Afghan soil to create trouble and often presented the case of Indian spy Kulbushan Yadhav as evidence.
The American diplomat, nevertheless, made it clear that the US would never condone or support any use of ‘terrorist proxies against another country’. “We have been working very actively with Pakistan to combat whether it’s al Qaeda or TTP. Any terrorist attacking Pakistan is enemy of ours and we share very strong counter-terrorism objectives in defeating extremist forces,” Wells emphasised.
When her attention was drawn towards Pakistan’s concerns regarding India’s role in creating trouble in Balochistan, she urged regional countries to respect each other’s sovereignty without naming India.
“We recognise and respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. We do not support any separatist movements,” she said, adding, “We think it’s critical that nations of this region respect one another and work to achieve peace and economic growth.”
Wells also said the US had no information regarding Pakistan Army’s latest allegations that Afghan and Indian secret agencies were funding the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
Wells said the US welcomed Prime Minister Imran’s public statements affirming his resolve not to allow Pakistan’s soil to be used against any other country.
“I would positively note that many comments the prime minister has made in public underscoring his government’s commitment to moving away from non-state actors to ensuring that the national action plan that Pakistan has forged is implemented,” she said.
She said the steps the government had so far taken to implement the national action plan were ‘positive.’ Wells said under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan, Pakistan had to take specific steps to deal with the terror financing. Ultimately, she said it would not be the US but FATF that would determine the steps taken by Pakistan.
She nevertheless added the US appreciated recent steps hoping that would continue until the threat was eliminated. About the prospects of resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India after the polls are over in the neighbouring country, Wells apparently linked the progress to Pakistan’s commitment of not allowing its territory to be used against India.
She said Pakistan needed to demonstrate its commitment to ensure that “violence is prerogative of the state that the militant groups can’t take advantage of Pakistani soil.”
When asked to specify the US concerns regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Wells said while Washington did not object to infrastructure investment by China, the question remains whether such projects meet the international standards.
She argued that such investments should be transparent, sustainable and should produce benefits for the country.
“So any concern that we have over CPEC projects is with regards to the transparency, the efficacy and the sustainability of the loans,” she explained.
“This is an issue that is not Pakistan specific. We have expressed this concern about belt and road initiative more broadly.
“We welcome the infrastructure investment by China and by all countries so far it advances the prosperity of the countries involved,” she maintained.
“We have had cases whether it’s the Hambantota port of Sri Lanka, whether its prime minister of Malaysia saying enough is enough whether it’s the Maldives where the newly elected president is unwinding projects that have been contracted on non-transparent terms that are not beneficial to Maldives,” she elaborated further.