ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States will hold talks in Washington next week amid the persistent tension, officials said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua’s visit to Washington from March 6-8 was aimed at defusing the tension and finding “common ground”.

An official said: “She will be meeting senior officials in Washington aiming at improving the Pak-US ties.”

The official added that Pakistan was ready to show flexibility to save the alliance.

The visit comes after Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif made it clear that Pakistan would no more sacrifice its interest for the sake of the US. Asif said Pakistan would frame its foreign policy keeping in view the national interest.

The minister said if the US wanted peace in the region, it should review its south Asia policy.

The shaky Pak-US ties received a severe shock when US President Donald Trump suspended the security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund at the start of the year 2018.

Trump alleged Pakistan was not taking action against the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban.

The US president claimed giving Pakistan $33 billion in aid.  The US had sanctioned $33.4 billion for reimbursements to Pakistan during the past 15 years, 44 per cent of which was on account of anti-terror services.

Last month, the Financial Action Task Force discussed a US-sponsored resolution to place Pakistan on the terrorist financing watch-list. The Foreign Office confirmed this week that Pakistan will be included in the watch-list in June this year.

The US Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for South and Central Asia, Lisa Curtis, visited Islamabad last week and held meetings with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua. They discussed the overall Pak-US ties and the Afghanistan issue.

Tehmina Janjua will meet Lisa Curtis among other US officials, while she is in Washington to discuss improvement in the relationship that has gone from bad to worse ever since Washington enhanced ties with New Delhi.

Another official at the foreign ministry said Tehmina Janjua had prepared a case for Pakistan and would be carrying details of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror.

“She will also share Pakistan’s point of view on the resolution of the Afghanistan issue after Afghanistan and the US leaders are now buying our proposal to hold talks with the Taliban,” he said.

The official said Pakistan would brief the US about the continuous ceasefire violations by India along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary.

“India is creating a war-like situation. We will invite the US’ attention towards the escalation by India. We will also seek US support for resumption of a dialogue process between Pakistan and India,” he said.

On Friday, the acting director-general south Asia summoned the Indian Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control, using heavy mortars, on March 1 in Bhimber/Samahini sectors, resulting in the death of a civilian, Zafar Iqbal from Nihala village.

The firing injured Iqbal’s wife and child.

“Despite calls for restraint, India continues to indulge in ceasefire violations. In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 415 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the death of 20 innocent civilians and injuries to 71 others. This unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from the year 2017 when the Indian forces committed 1,970 ceasefire violations,” said a foreign ministry statement.

It added: “The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws. The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation.”

The acting director-general urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 Ceasefire arrangement; investigate this and other incidents of ceasefire violations; instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary.

He asked the Indian side to permit the UN observers to play their mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, the 12th meeting of the Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group on Strategic Stability was held here on Friday.

Pakistan team was led by Ambassador Tasnim Aslam, special secretary United Nations and Economic Coordination, while the Russian delegation was led by Sergey Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister of the Russian Federation.

“The two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the regional and global developments, including with respect to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. In the backdrop of a fast-evolving strategic landscape, the talks were marked by a commonality of approach and convergence on a range of contemporary issues. The two sides expressed high degree of satisfaction over their close coordination, cooperation and consultations at various international fora,” said a foreign ministry statement.

Both sides, it said, agreed on the need to further capitalise on the positive trajectory of the overall bilateral relations by exploring avenues for mutually-beneficial bilateral cooperation.

Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group on Strategic Stability is a platform for structured dialogue between the two sides and has been meeting since 2003.



Shafqat Ali