WASHINGTON: The United States and Nato have jointly urged Pakistan not to see the new US strategy for South Asia as a move to isolate it.

“One reason why we welcome the new US strategy announced by President Trump recen­tly is that it has this regional approach. And this region includes both Pakistan and India,” said Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg when asked if the new strategy could persuade Pakis­tan to move further away from the United States-led alliance in Afghanistan.

“Both those nations have to be included in a mutual approach. We urge all countries in the region to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” he added.

The Nato chief said he did not see why including India in this regional approach should create any problems.

“I think in the opposite, if India is not included, that would be a big mistake. So, we urge all countries to participate, but as part of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” he said.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said that President Trump’s strategy was an opportunity for Pakistan to engage in the counterterror campaign.

“The South Asia strategy is not exclusive of someone. It is inclusive for all responsible states that want to stop terrorism in its tracks and defend the innocent,” he said.

The quotes are from a transcript of a joint news conference that Mr Mattis, Mr Stoltenberg and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed in Kabul on Thursday.

The transcript, relea­sed by the Pen­tagon in Washington on Friday, quoted Secre­tary Mat­tis as saying that the United States would be watching the choices Pakistan makes now.

“So far as Pakistan, we will watch Pakistan’s choices. We will engage with Pakistan,” he said.

“We will continue to work in a unified way between Nato, the coalition, the Afghan government and the other regional governments in South Asia as we try to set the conditions for a positive set of nations and teamwork against the terrorists, Taliban, IS [the militant Islamic State group] whoever they might be,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2017

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