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FOREIGN Secretary Tehmina Janjua welcomes US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to the Foreign Office on Monday.—INP
FOREIGN Secretary Tehmina Janjua welcomes US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to the Foreign Office on Monday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: The United States on Monday proposed enhanced intelligence cooperation to Pakistan as their diplomats sat down in an effort to fix their frayed relationship.

The two sides looked to be having a consensus on the need to work together for stabilising Afghanistan as US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells opened her visit to Islamabad, accompanied by senior officials from the National Security Council.

Ms Wells’s trip is the first by a senior US official to Pakistan since tensions between the two countries reached boiling point over President Donald Trump’s new year tweet in which he accused Pakistan of giving US nothing but “lies and deceit”.

Squabbling over terror sanctuaries is the new normal between the two countries, but the relationship took a sharp downward slide after the Trump administration announced its South Asia and Afghanistan policy. The US has since then been consistently ramping up pressure on Pakistan and lately suspended its military aid.

Tehmina tells Wells ties must be based on trust and respect

The assistant secretary’s visit follows military-level contacts between the two countries for cooling the row. Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa was earlier contacted by Centcom Commander Gen Joseph Votel and a US senator.

However, at the end of the first day of Ms Wells’s trip, there was little to suggest if they were any closer to finding the elusive common ground except for the broader understanding on the need for working together for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Ms Wells conveyed the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of stabilising Afghanistan and noted that Washington was cognisant of the importance of Pakistan’s support for the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan.

Ms Wells proposed strengthening of bilateral intelligence cooperation to improve coordination in counterterrorism efforts.

Foreign Secretary Teh­mina Janjua, who met the visiting delegation at the Foreign Office, told the US officials that their government needed to move forward in ties with Pakistan “under an environment of mutual trust and respect”.

She took the usual line of explaining the significance of the counterterrorism operations undertaken by Pakistan for the overall regional peace and stability and reiterating the concern about the continued use of Afghan soil against Pakistan and escalatory steps by India.

The Pakistani recipe for addressing the challenges was also the same —strengthening border management mechanisms between Pakistan and Afghanistan and early repatriation of Afghan refugees. This, Ms Janjua said, would help address concerns about unauthorised cross-border movements by militants and ultimately repair Pak-Afghan relations.

“The two sides agreed that all initiatives owned and led by the Afghans for seeking a peaceful solution should be supported by the regional countries. Pakistan’s positive role in several peace initiatives was appreciated,” the FO said.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018