ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif on Monday said that the United States has assured India’s role in Afghanistan was “limited”.

The foreign minister, while speaking to journalists here, said Washington had conveyed to Pakistan that India’s role was merely economic and nothing beyond that.

The minister earlier addressed the fourth Round of US-Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue here titled: “Convergence amid divergence: Identifying pathways to cooperation in a challenging environment”.

Asif said the US should share timely intelligence with Pakistan on the movement of terrorists and “Pakistan will itself take action.”

He said Pakistan, being a sovereign nation, could not allow other militaries to operate inside the country.

Addressing the US-Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale confirmed that India’s role in Afghanistan was restricted only to economic assistance.

Hale said the US administration had asked Pakistan to take “decisive action” against terrorists on its soil.

“US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has conveyed to the Pakistani leadership that the Pak-US relations are at a crucial juncture,” he said.

The ambassador stressed that Pakistan and India should resolve their issues through talks.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his recent visit had offered to mediate on the longstanding Kashmir issue. Pakistan had welcomed the offer and said it was India who was running away from talks of mediation offers.

About US mediation offer, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said: “The US has repeatedly stated in both private and public interactions that it wants to see de-escalation between Pakistan and India. We have welcomed these statements by the US officials since Pakistan has also been making consistent efforts to reach out to India with a view to lowering the temperatures.”

Last month, US Acting Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells said her country had specific expectations from Pakistan to “help create conditions” that would help “bring Taliban to the negotiating table”.

Her comments came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - who visited Pakistan last month – said the US was not demanding anything from Pakistan.

“We are asking you to do this; we are not demanding anything. You are a sovereign country. You’ll decide what you want to do, but understand this is what we think is necessary. And if you don’t want to do that, don’t feel you can do it, we’ll adjust our tactics and our strategies to achieve the same objective a different way.”

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi later said Pakistan being a sovereign country could not accept the idea of joint operation with the US against the militants inside Pakistan.

Khawaja Asif said Pakistan welcomed mediation by the US in easing its ties with India as Pakistan had always opted for comprehensive dialogue for a peaceful neighbourhood.

“We are naturally concerned about India’s role in Afghanistan. The US has told us the role is limited,” he maintained.

Asif emphasised the need for elimination of the terrorists’ safe havens in Afghanistan, adding the US Afghan policy could damage the reconciliation process in the country.

The minister said Afghanistan’s economy and structure had been hampered and damaged by the war and there were multiple pressure groups, which wanted war for their personal benefits.

He said Pakistan’s effective counter-terrorism efforts had dismantled the terrorist networks.

The foreign minister said with self defence and self-interest “as our first priority we are fully committed to protecting the sovereignty of our motherland.  We will also not allow our soil to be used against any other country.”

The foreign minister said Pakistan had also reached out to other regional countries and regional fora like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) in its efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

Asif said intelligence sharing was imperative to improve border management with Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan had suggested that the Afghan refugees in Pakistan needed to be repatriated but the US side objected saying Kabul was “too unstable.”

Asif said the refugees were not Pakistan’s problem.

“We told the US they can invest in the replacement of these refugees to their home country,” he added.

The minister said the Pak-US ties needed to be worked on.

“The blame game needs to end. Only this way our two countries can move forward and improve ties,” he said.

 

 

 

Meanwhile on Monday, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif met Leonid Eduardovich Slutsky, the Chairman of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs of the Russian Federation here.

“Views were exchanged on bilateral cooperation in political, economic and parliamentary spheres. It was agreed to step up efforts for greater cooperation in the field of energy. The issues of regional security and stability were also discussed,” said a foreign ministry statement.

The foreign minister, it said, appreciated the sustained parliamentary diplomacy between Pakistan and Russia in the last few years, which had complemented the efforts of enhancing the wide-ranging bilateral relations.

“They also agreed to continue high-level interaction in different fields to further deepen the bilateral ties,” the statement said.

It added: “Pakistan and Russia enjoy close and cordial relations. Both countries share a common desire to forge a long-term and multidimensional partnership in diverse fields.”

Meanwhile on Monday, Pakistan said it remained committed to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Responding to a question about the recent meeting of Financial Action Task Force in Argentina, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said that the body appreciated the continued progress made by Pakistan in implementing its standards.

He said any insinuations made to the contrary “are only a reflection of a politically-motivated strategy to malign Pakistan.”

The spokesperson pointed out that list of countries of concern to the task force was available on its website and it did not include Pakistan.

 

India role is limited, US assures Pakistan