WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the United States began their defence talks in Washington on Monday to enhance coordination on strategic issues and explore various options for ramping up bilateral military and security ties.

The four-day talks, ending on Feb 16, is a second round of the Pakistan-US Mid-Level Defence Dialogue. The first round was held in Pakistan in January 2021.

Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Mohammad Saeed is leading the inter-agency delegation that reached Washington on Sunday.

The team includes senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Joint Staff Headquarters and three services headquarters. The US multi-agency team is represented by the office of the undersecretary of defence.

In a brief statement issued on Sunday, Pakistan stated: “Issues of bilateral defence and security cooperation will be discussed during the defence dialogue”.

The talks are being held in the backdrop of increasing militant activities in Pakistan by insurgents coming from Afghanistan.

Washington has expressed serious concerns on these activities, assuring Islamabad that it would not allow groups like the TTP to threaten Pakistan’s territory.

In an interview with Dawn in Washington last week, State Department Counsellor Derek Chollet said the United States viewed TTP as a threat to its interests as well. “We reject any form of terrorism by any group. And so, we believe the US and Pakistan have a shared interest in fighting terrorists,” he said.

Mr Chollet said that the United States would also help Pakistan in dealing with the current economic situation. “For the US, it’s going to be about how we can deepen the partnership further and help Pakistan as it’s trying to deal with what is an unquestionably challenging economic situation,” he said.

Pakistan and the United States are also holding Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks in Washington in the last week of February, and a counterterrorism dialogue next month.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2023

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