Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, while briefing the Senate on Wednesday regarding the talks held between Pakistani and American delegations a day earlier, asserted that Islamabad will co-operate with Washington in the ‘war on terror’ but without compromising its own sovereignty.
On Tuesday, a six-member delegation comprising Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership hosted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for a brief visit to Islamabad.
Asif briefed that the Pakistani leadership told the American delegation that they should allow their policymakers, and not their military leaders, to devise a policy for Afghanistan as the military solution has failed and a political solution is needed.
“Their failures over the past 16 years [since the war in Afghanistan started] is before them,” Asif added.
“There will only be room for improvement if Washington accepts their defeat, their failures in Afghanistan,” Asif said on Wednesday. “They are not ready to accept this.”
During the talks, Asif told the Senate, Pakistani officials informed the American delegation that Pakistan does not want any military hardware, economic resources or material gain from Washington. Rather, Pakistan wants a relationship based on equality with the US.
Asif further informed the Senate that the Pakistani side has told the American delegation that if the latter provides actionable intelligence, Pakistan will act on it. He gave the example of the recent rescue of an American-Canadian couple and their three children from terrorists’ captivity in Kohat.
“However, if they want that we act as their proxies to fight their war… this is unacceptable.”
“We will not compromise on our sovereignty, our dignity,” Asif added. “Our relations [with America] should be based on self-respect and dignity.”
He said, in contrast, Pakistan, which is not a superpower, has gained successes in the war against terror.
“Our country, our military and our police have made sacrifices in the war and in return, we have gained unmatched success.”
He said Pakistan would see further success if the Parliament, the National Security Committee and the people of the country send a united message as they had after August 21 when US President Donald Trump announced his South Asia policy and lambasted Pakistan for offering safe havens to “agents of chaos”.
At no stage since the policy announcement, have we succumbed to pressure and on Tuesday, for the first time, the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan sat down with the delegation and presented their input, Asif said.
“At no point during the talks did we adopt an accusatory tone, nor were we apologetic,” the minister told the Senate.
“The institutions of Pakistan will protect the country’s interest,” Asif said.
Diminishing influence over Taliban
Asif further told the Senate that the Pakistani side had told the visiting delegation that the influence Pakistan once had over the Taliban has now diminished and there are others who are sponsoring the militant network.
He said that Washington had been tracing Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour for some time but only when he travelled to Pakistani soil he was killed.
“How do you expect that after these incidents Pakistan will have any influence over the Taliban?” Asif said, adding that these points had been raised in Tuesday’s meeting in a “frank” manner.
“We have told them that there are a number of influential players in the region ─ including China, Turkey and Russia ─ who might not have good relations with America but hold a stake in the Afghan dispute.”
“The role of these countries in solving the dispute is indispensable,” Asif added.
Referring to a recent statement by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley where she said that India can help the United States in keeping an eye on Pakistan, Asif said that Pakistan “also has a mouth to speak” but will proceed with caution so that relations with America can improve.
Pakistan is not a safe haven for terrorists, US told
Following the meeting between Pakistani officials and Rex Tillerson in Islamabad, Asif ─ who was a member of the Pakistani delegation ─ said that the American delegation was informed that Washington’s allegations against Pakistan of offering safe havens to terrorists and protecting the Haqqani network are incorrect.
Speaking on Geo News‘ late night show Aaj Shahzaib Khanzada Key Saath, Asif said that Islamabad wanted to show that all institutions in the country have the same message.
When asked whether the joint talks were held with the visiting secretary due to a time crunch or, rather, in order to send out a united message to Washington, he said, “This was our deliberate decision ─ to hold talks on a single platform ─ so that Washington knows the leadership is united in the message it is sending across,” Asif said.