ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Thursday cautioned the United States against upsetting South Asian strategic stability while expanding its cooperation with India.

“Increasing defence cooperation between India and the US will disturb the regional balance, both conventional and strategic,” the adviser said at a media briefing at the Foreign Office, where he presented the foreign policy achievements of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government during the past three years and mentioned its priorities in the remaining part of its tenure.

Mr Aziz’s comments come amidst another downturn in the bilateral relationship with the US, which he noted was “historically marked by highs and lows”. While the current bad path in the ties is primarily because of American concerns about inadequate action against terrorist groups like the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the scope and pace of development of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme, Islamabad has at the same time viewed growing ties of the US with India, particularly the defence cooperation aspect, with concern.

President Mamnoon Hussain had in his annual address to parliament last week characterised these mutual apprehensions as “misgivings”. Meanwhile, civilian and military leaders had at a meeting at GHQ a few days ago said that trust with the US had been affected.

The Obama administration’s two key officials — Dr Peter Lavoy, director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the US National Security Council and Ambassador Richard Olson, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan — are reaching Islamabad to listen to Pakistani grievances and extend assurances of continued engagement.

The adviser at the briefing recalled that he had categorically told his American interlocutors at the time of revival of strategic dialogue in 2013 that Pakistan expected the US to take into consideration its [Pakistan’s] security interests while developing ties with India, otherwise taking the Strategic Dialogue forward would become difficult.

He said that although the US cannot be restricted from developing relations with India, Pakistan would maintain strategic deterrence to offset any negative consequences of Indo-US cooperation.

“It is true that we ourselves are responsible for the security of Pakistan, but we do not want other countries, especially our friend [the US], to upset the strategic balance in the region and make our task more difficult,” he underscored.

PROGRESS SHEET: Mr Aziz listed what he called the ten achievements of the PML-N government during the past three years in office, which included the strengthening of relations with China and launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; deepening of engagement with Central Asian Republics; invitation from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to become a full member; efforts to mend fences with Afghanistan and facilitate peace dialogue there; attempts to restart dialogue with India; initiation of Strategic Dialogue with the US; engagement with the EU and achieving the GSP+ preferential market access status; consolidation and expansion of relations with Russia; reinforcement of ties with the Muslim world; effective role at multilateral forums; and attaining Associate Membership of CERN.

He rejected the impression that some of the events in the recent past like the re-emergence of strains in relations with the US and Afghanistan and perceived encirclement by India affected those achievements.

“The ten points which I have presented are in line with ground realities and these are solid achievements. If something other happens you cannot nullify these,” he observed.

He said: “You have to see foreign policy dynamically, it is not in black and white i.e. if this thing happens, the other will not. Nowadays it is fashionable to say that our foreign policy has failed. No foreign policy is a complete success or a complete failure.”

About India’s likely entry into Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the adviser said India wanted to use its membership for adding weight to its Nuclear Suppliers Group bid. But he doubted that India would succeed.

Mr Aziz also spelt out the priorities for the government over its remaining tenure of two years, which included consolidating the successes against terrorism and extremism; efforts for reviving QCG and the Afghan reconciliation process; intensification of engagement with the US; holding Saarc Summit in November; self-reliance in armaments and diversification for sources of procurement for defence equipment; developing relations with Southeast Asian countries; and working for well-being of the overseas community.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2016

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