ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Muham­mad Asif on Thursday said that Pakistan’s interests could not be sacrificed for the sake of American interests.

He was talking to journalists after inaugurating a seminar titled “The economic benefits of the modern Silk Road — CPEC” organised by a local think tank Pak-China Institute.

“Unlike past, we would not, under any circumstances, act as a US proxy. We will not sacrifice our interests for serving US interests,” the foreign minister said, adding that there were “difficulties in the relationship”.

He echoed a decision taken by the National Sec­urity Committee earlier this week according to which policies would be formulated and implemented in the light of national interest.

Foreign minister attributes problems in ties with Washington to policies of 1980s and ‘Musharraf’s surrender’ after 9/11 attacks

Pakistan and United States are currently enga­g­ed in a secret dialogue to fix their dysfunctional relationship. Conflicting statements have lately been issued by US officials creating confusion about the progress being made in the dialogue.

Centcom Commander Gen Joseph Votel had in a testimony before a US House of Representatives panel on Tuesday mentioned the “positive indicators from Pakis­tan”. Mean­while, US Nat­ional Security Council official Lisa Curtis, who visited Islamabad earlier this week, talked about continuing presence of Haqqani network and other terror sanctuaries on Pakistani soil and the deficiencies in Pakistan’s counter-illicit financing regime.

Foreign Minister Asif said Pakistan’s interests were paramount and would remain top priority. “They will be defended at every cost.”

The minister attributed the problems in ties with the US to the policies followed in the 1980s and what he described as “Musharraf’s surrender” after 9/11.

In reply to a question about the US call for a Pakistan-India dialogue, he said Washington should first balance its policy towards South Asia. “US policy is tilted towards India. It can act as an honest broker if it balances its policy for the region. It can then play a role,” he maintained.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert had on Wednesday, while responding to a question at the daily media briefing about ceasefire violations at the Line of Control, said: “We think that both sides would certainly have to sit down and have talks about that.”

Centcom Commander Gen Votel, meanwhile in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: “The enduring tension between the nuclear powers of India and Pakistan remains un-reconciled.”

Afghan peace initiative

Foreign Minister Asif welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of recognising Taliban as a political force as part of a number of confidence building measures proffered to kick-start talks for a peace agreement.

“We welcome his [President Ghani’s] offer to talk directly to Taliban. It is a good initiative and should be supported,” he said.

Asked if Pakistan could extend any help, the minister said: “We are as much keen for Afghan peace process as much as we love our own peace.”

He was of the opinion that all neighbours of Afghanis­tan would be ready to extend a helping hand in the process if required.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2018

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