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Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani (R) and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wynne. – Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD, June 15: In the strongest response yet to American strong-arm tactics, the Pakistan military on Friday said it would not accept any pressure to abandon the stance taken in negotiations with the United States.

“We will accept no pressure for standing up for our principles,” said Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), at a graduation ceremony of National Security and War Course at the National Defence University.

The comments came amid intensifying tensions between Islamabad and Washington. While US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s ridiculing of Pakistani security forces in India and the remarks on presence of safe havens in tribal areas wasn’t helpful, what incensed the military top brass was his backing for restrictions on military aid for Pakistan.

Secretary Panetta had said that “We (US) are reaching the limits of our patience here” for what is said to be Pakistan’s tolerance for Haqqani network and other militant groups running insurgency from sanctuaries in tribal areas.

But Gen Wynne categorically denied this allegation in his speech at the defence university. “We are combating wholeheartedly the menace of extremism and terrorism so as to banish them from our society. The people and the armed forces of Pakistan have taken up this challenge and our soldiers as well as innocent civilians are sacrificing their lives for this cause. We seek nothing beyond secure frontiers and pose no threat to any country,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff committee underscored.

The general used the occasion to remind the Americans that there could be no peace without a resolution of the Kashmir issue.

“I must also point out that as long as regional disputes, especially Kashmir, remain unresolved, stability will remain a distant dream. We must therefore continue for a just solution of the Kashmir dispute as it is only fair to all the people who dwell in this region.”

Talks on a new transit agreement for Nato supplies, meanwhile, have been suspended since last week. Both Pakistan and the US have separately said that the negotiations stalled because of bigger issues in relationship and not just because of differences over transit fee.

Diplomatic sources in the United States now blame Pakistan for blocking the Nato supply route deal by raising afresh the apology issue, claiming that all issues had been settled during and after the Chicago summit.

The downward trajectory in bilateral relationship, which started in January last year, when CIA operative Raymond Davis shot dead two young men in Lahore, aggravated with the Osama bin Laden denouement and then the Salala border post attacks in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

The US disregard of demands for an apology over the Salala incident and cessation of drone attacks has made matters worse.

The Americans, on the other side, are frustrated with Pakistan’s perceived failure to act against the Haqqani network and other Taliban-affiliated terror groups based in the tribal areas. Conviction of Dr Shakeel Afridi, who helped CIA hunt Osama bin Laden, has added to the fury in Washington. The government’s clarification that Dr Afridi had been sentenced to 33 years for collaborating with the outlawed Lashkar-i-Islam failed to pacify US leaders.

In the backdrop of a rift with Pakistan, the US has encouraged India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan and has also launched a trilateral mechanism involving Kabul.

Although the agenda is limited to development, unlike the trilateral process with Islamabad that covers peace and security, the new arrangement is set to anger the Pakistani military, which has been sceptical of Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

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