ISLAMABAD: Declaring terrorists attacking Pakistan as its enemies, the United States on Wednesday said it does not have the ‘evidence’ suggesting that India is using the Afghan soil to perpetrate terrorism in Pakistan.
“I don’t have the evidence what you’re referring to, but our policy is clear that no country should support non-state actors,” a senior visiting State Department official said in response to a question while interacting with a group of journalists here at the US Embassy.
Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs who was in Islamabad as part of delegation headed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, was asked about Pakistan’s longstanding allegations against India for sponsoring terrorism from Afghanistan.
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 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 or irredentist 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, who held a series of meetings with civil and military officials in Islamabad, 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).
Major General Asif Ghafoor, the chief military spokesperson on Tuesday laid out a charge sheet against the PTM leadership. One of the allegations leveled against the group was about getting funds from Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
US welcome PM Imran’s commitment on ‘non-state actors’
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.’
The government had briefed the diplomatic corps and international community on the detention of leaders of proscribed groups, the seizure of assets and provincial control over some of the physical infrastructure, she noted.
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.”
Concerns on CPEC
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.
Meanwhile, at the conclusion of his trip Ambassador Khalilzad expressed his appreciation for Prime Minister Imran’s recent remarks in support of the peace process and broader vision for stability and prosperity in the region.
During his stay, Khalilzad held a series of meetings including with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and others.
Khalilzad requested and received support for the need to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations as well as a reduction in violence, concrete steps necessary for a comprehensive settlement, said a statement issued by the US Embassy here.
He reiterated that an end to the war will bring long overdue peace and stability for Afghans and an independent Afghanistan that precludes it from being used by terrorists to attack the United States or any other country.
In addition, peace holds particular significance for the region by facilitating regional economic integration, said Ambassador Khalilzad, adding that such integration contributes to advancing PM Imran’s vision for a development-centric transformation of Pakistan.