WASHINGTON: Adviser on Finance Miftah Ismail has said that Pakistan will not compromise on its security interests even if the United States (US) cancels all its aid to the country.

In an interview to The Financial Times, he also criticised US President Donald Trump’s Jan 1 tweet in which he vowed to change the nature of America’s relationship with Pakistan, which he claimed was based on “nothing but lies and deceit”.

“Some guy wakes up early in the morning and tweets; I don’t know what the … he tweets,” Mr Ismail said.

Three days after Mr Trump’s New Year morning tweet, the Trump administration suspended its security assisting to Pakistan and asked Islamabad to prove its commitment to fighting all terrorist groups operating in the region if it wants the aid to be restored.

Mr Ismail, however, said such pressures cannot force Islamabad to abandon its security interests. Islamabad fears that the United States is purposely giving India a larger role in Afghanistan, enabling it to use the Afghan territory for stirring troubles in Pakistan.

Pakistani officials claim that India has helped TTP set up camps inside Afghanistan, which they now use for launching attacks into Pakistan.

“We are the sixth or seventh-largest country in the world and have the seventh-largest standing army in the world,” Mr Ismail told Financial Times. “We’re not going to compromise on our security interest, on our national interest, based on a few hundred million dollars, I promise you that.”

Mr Ismail also claimed that Washington was teaming up with New Delhi, saying: “I think that America and India probably together were just focused on embarrassing Pakistan”.

Despite this, the United States and Pakistan have stayed engaged. Since January, several senior US civil and military officials have visited Islamabad for consultations on President Trump’s South Asia strategy, which seeks to defeat Taliban, both politically and militarily. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua also visited Washington to share their views with US officials.

Last week, Washington sent yet another envoy, Ambassador Alice Wells, to Islamabad who told Pakistani officials that the United States wants to stay engaged with all levels of the Pakistani government for talks on eliminating terrorism from the region.

But a Pakistani official said this weekend that both sides were still looking for a ‘common ground’ to make these talks more useful.

Mohammad Faisal, a spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs told the US-backed Radio Free Europe that “the main purpose of these talks” was to “find that common ground”.

But a spokesperson for the US State Department told Dawn in Washington that the United States holds regular talks with Pakistan on issues of mutual concern and this engagement involves all levels of government.

He said the relationship between the US and Pakistan was based on a broad range of shared interests, which include “a commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security, and a desire to build economic and commercial ties that benefit both countries”.

The US official said that in her meetings with Pakistani officials, Ambassador Wells had reviewed the bilateral relationship and regional issues - particularly Afghanistan and an Afghan-led peace process.

“These conversations are part of an ongoing and routine dialogue between the United States and Pakistan on the South Asian strategy and Pakistan’s stated commitment to eliminate all terrorist groups present in the country, as well as our shared interests in building economic and commercial ties,” the US spokesperson said.

“We meet and talk regularly, at all levels of government, in Washington, Islamabad and elsewhere, to discuss our bilateral relationship and Pakistani support for our South Asia strategy.”

He said that this regular enga­ge­ment with Pakistan “focuses on how we can work together to advance Afghanistan’s stability through a negotiated process, to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability, and to address Pakistan’s legitimate regional concerns”.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018

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