Pakistan wants strategic concerns addressed

Islamabad says not keen on restoration of suspended $1b


Kamran Yousaf January 15, 2018
US top commander for the Middle East says an influx of new US trainers can help escalate the fight. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan wants the United States to pay heed to its ‘genuine’ strategic grievances instead of restoring security assistance the Trump administration had suspended recently to persuade Islamabad to take action against alleged sanctuaries of the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network.

While the US demands seeking action against the Haqqani network are known, Pakistan has put forth its list of demands, asking Washington to take into account its concerns related to Afghanistan and other regional issues.

Contrary to public perception, Pakistan is not keen to seek restoration of around $1 billion security assistance suspended by the US recently.

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Instead, Islamabad wants that the Trump administration must not only listen to its concerns on Afghanistan and wider region but also help redress them.

Pakistan’s concerns, according to officials, are two-fold: one, directly related to Afghanistan, and the second about the US overall strategy for the South Asian region.

On Afghanistan, Islamabad has conveyed to Washington that its enormous sacrifices in the fight against terrorism need to be acknowledged. But at the same, the US needs to reorient its approach including on the Afghan refugees.

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While Pakistan has repeatedly denied charges that it is providing any sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, it does acknowledge that some elements may be using its soil because of the presence of a large number of Afghan refugees.

In order to plug that loophole, Pakistan during the ongoing discussions with the US had suggested a workable solution under which those refugees are repatriated.

Pakistan believes that repatriation of Afghan refugees can significantly deny insurgent groups any space on its soil.

Another subject, officials said, Pakistan is now vigorously pursuing with the US is the growing footprint of Indian secret services in Afghanistan.

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The nexus between Indian spy agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) and Afghanistan’s NDS (National Directorate of Security) is an open secret, said one official.

But what was regrettable was the response of US to Pakistan’s repeated demands seeking to curb RAW-NDS activities.

Islamabad is also upset over the Trump Administration’s approach putting the longstanding Kashmir dispute to the back burner.

“It is astonishing how the US has turned a blind eye towards the atrocities being committed by the Indian forces in Occupied Kashmir,” said a senior Foreign Office official, adding that Washington could not distance itself from the Indo-Pak tensions.

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“Such an approach has direct bearing on efforts for regional peace,” the official added while requesting anonymity.

The official confirmed that Pakistan had made it clear to the US that it needed to take a ‘holistic view’ of the current regional situation.

“Our genuine concerns can’t be brushed aside,” the official maintained.

Pakistan’s concerns are known to the US for some time, but Islamabad has made it a priority by giving precedence even over the resumption of security assistance.

Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is thought to have raised the issue during his recent telephonic conversation with US Centcom Chief General Josph L Votel.

General Qamar told the top American general that the US needs to understand and address Pakistan’s ‘strategic anxieties’.

Gen Votel reportedly assured the Army chief that the US “understands Pakistan’s concerns and interests.”

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