WASHINGTON: No US official or lawmaker asked for a military base in Pakistan, said National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf who left for Islamabad on Thursday night after a 10-day visit to the US capital.
“The word base was not mentioned, not even once, during our talks, except in the media,” Mr Yusuf told US-based Pakistani journalists while summing up the visit. "Bases were not discussed at all from either side during this trip because we have already made our position clear. That chapter is closed."
Earlier reports in both US and Pakistani media claimed that the Biden administration was seeking military bases in Pakistan to influence developments in Afghanistan, particularly if the Taliban seized Kabul. At recent congressional hearings, US officials did talk about using Pakistani airspace for reaching Afghanistan and having bases in the region but did not say where.
“If there are tensions between the United States and China, we cannot say that our relations with both will remain seamless,” said Mr Yusuf while underlining Islamabad’s desire to maintain good ties with both.
Recent reports in the US media have suggested that Afghanistan and China are the two main obstacles in rebuilding a close relationship between Pakistan and the United States.
According to these reports, Washington wants Islamabad to use its influence to prevent a Taliban takeover in Kabul. US policy makers also want Pakistan to join a US-led alliance to contain China’s growing influence in the region.
Commenting on these speculations, Mr Yusuf said that Pakistan did not see this as a “zero-sum game, either with the US or with China.” Pakistan has, and wants to retain, good relations with both, he added.
“In fact, our location provides us the opportunity to play a key role in promoting good relations between the United States and China, as we did in 1970,” he said.
Mr Yusuf acknowledged that the Afghan issue came up regularly in his meetings with US officials, lawmakers and scholars. “They talked about the past, saying that had Pakistan cooperated with the US, they could have defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he explained.
“We urged them to focus on the future. What happens in the next three months will determine Afghanistan’s future,” he added.
The adviser said that Pakistan wants America to stay engaged in Afghanistan and to continue playing a leading role, as it did in the past. “In fact, we think a total US withdrawal will have a negative impact on the entire region,” he said.
“Pakistan shares US aspiration for peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
Insisting that both countries had the same goal, “reaching a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani official said: “The difference is over the methodology alone and that’s why we have decided to stay engaged.”
Mr Yusuf, however, acknowledged that there were differences between Pakistan and the current government in Kabul, mainly because “they keep giving offensive statements about Pakistan.”
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2021