Chief of the Army Staff in a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.—Online
Chief of the Army Staff in a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.—Online

WASHINGTON: The regional security situation and bilateral military cooperation between Pakistan and the United States dominated Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s talks with his American counterparts, the military’s press office said on Wednesday.

The army chief, who accompanied Prime Minister Imran Khan on his three-day visit to Washington, also met US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, it added.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor gave an update on Gen Bajwa’s engagements in a series of tweets on Wednesday.

Besides Secretary Pompeo, the COAS also met Acting Defence Secretary Richard Spencer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Joseph F. Dunford and Joint Chief of Staff Gen Mark Milley. He was also part of the delegation that accompanied the prime minister on his visit to the White House.

Gen Bajwa was received at the Pentagon by Gen Dunford and was presented a 21-gun salute.

Bajwa holds talks with Pompeo, military officials

“The US leadership acknowledged the contributions of Pakistan Army in the war against terrorism and its role [in the] Afghan peace process,” the ISPR chief said.

The COAS visited the US State Department for a meeting with Secretary Pompeo and “the two discussed regional security issues, especially focusing on the Afghan peace process [and] the importance of an Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled solution”, Maj Gen Ghafoor wrote.

During a meeting with US Senator Lindsay Graham and retired Gen Jack Keane, the army chief emphasised the need for healthy relations between both countries which, he said, were important for regional stability.

According to the ISPR chief, the COAS told the two US leaders that “Pakistan attaches great importance to restoring a robust bilateral relationship based on mutual respect, trust and shared values”.

Gen Bajwa apprised them of the improved security situation in Pakistan and the resulting opportunities for foreign businesses to invest in Pakistan, Maj Gen Ghafoor said. The army chief also told them that “bilateral relationship holds potential for both countries and would also assist in regional stability”, he added.

The COAS also paid homage to US national heroes at the Arlington National Cemetery, where a special ceremony was held during which the national anthems of both countries were played.

In a separate news briefing at the Pakistan Embassy, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that besides the army chief, the DG ISI and the CIA chief also attended one of the prime minister’s meetings at the White House on Monday.

Mr Qureshi said the prime minister decided to bring the country’s top generals to Washington because the discussions involved economic, political and security issues.

“President Trump appreciated their presence, noting that it showed the country’s civil and military leaderships are on the same page on all major issues,” he said.

The foreign minister rejected the suggestion that this was the first time the country’s top military leadership participated in talks with the US administration. “Gen Kiani was with me on the table, as was Gen Pasha, when I held similar talks as the foreign minister of the PPP government,” he said. Mr Qureshi said that “being on the same page is a good thing”.

He noted that previous rulers always complained of disagreements with the country’s military establishment. “Now, that the civil and military leaderships have this unity of thoughts, they should appreciate it,” the foreign minister said.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2019

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