Pakistan doesn’t agree with Trump’s South Asia policy: FO

Says Pak-US dialogue ongoing, Mattis visit aimed at continuing interaction

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Thursday said it did not agree with US President Donald Trump’s policy on South Asia but talks were on to find common grounds to move forward.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said that the two countries were trying to improve the trust level.

“We have already talked about this earlier. Pakistan did not agree with the US policy on South Asia which was announced in August this year. There was a difference in understanding and perceptions on both sides. Thereafter, a dialogue started,” he said.

Faisal said the meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly was immediately followed by a meeting between Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas A Shannon.

“Soon thereafter, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif met the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others in Washington. Later, Lisa Curtis and Alice Wells came to Pakistan twice, followed by the visit of the US Secretary of State to Pakistan.  And now US Defence Secretary James Mattis will be visiting Pakistan (on December 3) to continue the interaction,” he said.

This, he said, clearly indicated that dialogue between both the countries to bridge gap in perceptions was ongoing. “We are trying to find common grounds and move forward in our bilateral relationship with the US in a positive and cooperative manner,” he said.

About US and India’s concerns over the release of Jamatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, he said Saeed was only in protective custody under the Maintenance of Public Order.

When questioned about US and Nato forces commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson’s allegations, Faisal said Pakistan and the US were actively engaged in discussing the situation in Afghanistan with a view to arriving at a better understanding of each other’s positions and to devise the way forward, promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan’s stance on the course of action for peace and stability in Afghanistan had been consistent and clear. “In our opinion, the only viable and durable solution to the Afghan conflict can be achieved through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led political process,” he said.

Faisal said drone attacks by the US were counter-productive and violated the sovereignty of Pakistan.

On India’s launch of the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, the spokesperson said: “This latest launch of the cruise missile is part of the ongoing build-up and induction of sophisticated weaponry and delivery systems by India.” Pakistan, he said, had consistently raised serious concerns about these developments as they negatively impact regional security and stability.

“This launch is yet another manifestation of the Indian negative trends. For its part, Pakistan continues to stress the need for a meaningful dialogue for confidence building, avoidance of arms race and promotion of strategic stability in South Asia. Pakistan’s proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime for South Asia remains on the table,” he maintained.

Faisal said that it was no surprise that India chose to exercise “strategic restraint” on its missile development prior to its application for the Missile Technology Control Regime membership.

The recent growth of missile tests by India after its MTCR membership, he said, clearly demonstrated its policy of duplicity - paying lip service to the goals of non-proliferation while developing conventional and non-conventional capabilities that not only undermine regional security but are inconsistent with non-proliferation norms as well.

To a question on convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav’s proposed meeting with his mother and wife, Faisal said Indian response had been received and was being considered.

Jadhav, he said, was a serving Indian naval officer and convicted after he confessed to his involvement in espionage, subversive and terrorist activities against Pakistan resulting in the loss of many lives and damage to the property.

On India’s claims that there was no progress on the Mumbai attacks case of 2008, the spokesperson said Foreign Secretary Janjua went to the anti-terrorism court this week. “She informed the court that the decision of the court to convey the names of the Indian witnesses required for testifying in the case was being considered by the Ministry of Interior,” he said.

On North Korea’s tension with the US, he said Pakistan continued to call upon North Korea to comply with its obligations under the Security Council resolutions and to refrain from actions that could lead to an escalation of tensions.

“In order to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, it is vital for all relevant parties to pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy, to reduce tensions and work towards achieving a comprehensive solution,” he said.

Questioned about the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance and the recent high-level meeting, Faisal said: “This was the first meeting of the defense ministers of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition since its inception in December 2015. The participants discussed ways to boost cooperation for combating terrorism through intelligence sharing, capacity building, joint exercises and media campaign. We highlighted Pakistan’s successful counterterrorism operations and the comprehensive National Action Plan.”

Reaffirming Pakistan’s historical and fraternal relations with Saudi Arabia, he said Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir has assured Saudi Arabia and the participating countries of Pakistan’s support and cooperation within the mutually agreed framework of the IMCTC.

About Iran’s reservations, he said: “We remain in close contact with the Iranian leadership at all levels. The latest contact was when the Chief of Army Staff (Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa) visited Iran on November 6 and had detailed consultations.”

To a question, he said Pakistan’s Consulate in Istanbul had informed Islamabad that the Turkish authorities had recovered 57 Pakistani illegal immigrants from the human traffickers in Istanbul.

About the use of chemical weapons by the Indian forces in held Kashmir, the spokesperson said such reports needed to be verified.

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