ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry has said that Pakistan’s growing strategic partnership with China is one of the main reasons behind the current strains in its ties with the United States.
Briefing a joint meeting of Senate’s standing committees on foreign affairs and defence on Monday, Chaudhry said the United States was probably upset over the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Opposition slams ‘weak’ foreign policy
Relations between Islamabad and Washington have been on a downward spiral after the May 21 US drone strike in Naushki district of Balochistan that killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
But this was the first time a top Pakistani official publicly said that the United States was upset over the closeness between Islamabad and Beijing. China also joined Pakistan in condemning the Naushki strike, calling it ‘detrimental to peace efforts’ in Afghanistan.
The foreign secretary said Pakistan had made it clear to the United States that it would not compromise on certain issues of national security, including its nuclear programme.
Pakistan has conveyed a clear message to a senior US official that the government would not accept more drone strikes, he added. He was referring to the visit of President Barack Obama’s pointman for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Olson who met with senior civil and military officials of Pakistan last week.
Aizaz said the United States had acted in haste in carrying out the drone attack in Naushki which according to him sabotaged the Afghan peace process. “We have asked the Americans to decide whether they want to resolve the Afghan imbroglio through use of military force or through talks,” he added.
Aizaz stressed that pursuing peace process was the only viable option to bring stability in Afghanistan. “They [the Americans] have been using [military] force for the last 16 years, but they are not willing to give six months to the peace process.”
Angoor Adda not handed over to Kabul
When committee members asked about the status of Angoor Adda check post in South Waziristan Agency, Foreign Secretary Aizaz clarified that the post was not handed over to Afghan authorities as earlier stated by Pakistan Army.
Pak-US relations — dropping off the edge?
Aizaz explained that the Pakistan military only constructed a gate on the Afghan side of the border and gifted it to Afghan authorities. Last month, DG ISPR Lt Gen Asim Bajwa said in a statement that Pakistan Army had handed over a ‘purpose built’ border crossing facility at Angor Adda to the Afghan authorities.
F16 deal lapsed
Briefing the committee members, Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Alam Khattak said the F-16 deal lapsed after the US Congress refused to subsidise the purchase of the state-of-the-art fighter jets.
He said he would not go into details of the F-16s issue with the US as the aircraft would be now acquired through a third party. “Pakistan is now exploring other options to obtain F16 jets from Jordan with the approval of the United States,” he added. Besides that Pakistan would also explore other options, including Russia and France.
Earlier in their opening remarks, committee members Mushahid Hussain and Nuzhat Sadiq sought a clarification from the government regarding the current status of Pak-US relations in the context of what was generally perceived as a drift in its foreign policy and national security.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz urged the parliamentarians to give comprehensive and solid suggestions to further improve the foreign policy, especially with regard to the US.
In a separate briefing, Aziz told MPs in the upper house of parliament that the government was preparing dossiers cataloguing documentary evidence of Indian spy agency’s involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan.
“We will show the world that terrorism is not only regional but a global problem and Pakistan has set an example in its counter terrorism drive for everybody to follow,” he said while speaking on an adjournment motion moved by Senator Ateeq Shaikh on a recent agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran on the Chahbahar port.
Though the senators criticised the trilateral agreement, Aziz said the Chahbahar port would complement the Gawadar deep seaport. “For this purpose, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is being signed with Iran,” he added.
Aziz also sought to quash an impression that growing Indian-US nexus to pave way for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was the result of Pakistan’s failed diplomacy.
“We have gathered considerable support against India’s membership of NSG. We are making sure that India does not get exceptions in this regard,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s viewpoint was accepted at a recent meeting in Vienna. “Russia, New Zealand, Mexico are among the key countries that support Pakistan on this issue.”
Earlier, opposition senators voiced their concern over the trilateral agreement. Ateeq Shaikh said India invested over $ 500 million in the Chahbahar port. “I have no objection over this port or the trilateral agreement. My concern is that this port is being constructed parallel to the Gawadar port which implies the two would become competitors in future.”
Senator Farhatullah Babar said there would be no threat from the Chahbahar port provided that the CPEC project was pursued sincerely. “Pakistan is increasingly becoming isolated. The fault lies not with our foreign ministry but with our foreign policy goals and objectives.”
Senator Mushahid noted a ‘strategic shift’ in the US foreign policy to downgrade Pakistan in order to counter China. Modi’s speech in the US Congress stoked anti-Pakistan sentiment, he said. “But China has given us the vote of confidence. We need to counter projects like Chahbahar port through wise diplomacy instead of cribbing and crying.”
Senator Taj Haider quoted Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s saying, “Brahmanism, Zionism and imperialist Americanism are in a natural alliance.”
Senator Saifullah Magsi, however, argued otherwise. “We need to stop playing the victim and crying for help like a kid while looking up to China for help. Iran is a sovereign country that pursues its national interest like we pursue Gawadar port for our national interest.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2016.
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