Richard-Olson-AFP-670
Richard Olson testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill July 31, 2012 in Washington. - Photo by AFP.

WASHINGTON: US ambassador-designate to Pakistan Richard Olson on Tuesday said Islamabad has moved away from the old concept of finding strategic depth in Afghanistan as he stressed encouragement for the positive development in the South Asian country's strategic thinking.

Appearing in his confirmation hearing, Olson, who until recently served as a senior diplomat in Kabul, cited to Capitol Hill Pakistani actions as well as the avowed policy statements by its leaders to move away from the old thinking.

“On the question of, this has been a doctrine that Pakistanis over the years have talked about strategic depth and, one of the ideas that Afghanistan represents strategic depth against a potential conflict with India.

“My sense is that the Pakistani military and Pakistani government has moved away from that.”

The Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has made some public comments about moving away from the doctrine of strategic depth,” he noted, when Republican Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker sought Olson's views on the issue.

Senator Corker from Tennessee raised the issue when he referred to the question of Pakistan's (past) quest for strategic depth in the region and concerns about Indian influence in Afghanistan.

In his reply, the ambassador-designate also referred to Pakistan's military steps toward that end.

“Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has redeployed his forces internally to deal with the internal threat, and heavily towards the border (with Afghanistan) to deal with the threats emanating from that region.”

“So, I think there is a basis at a strategic level for some further discussion with the Pakistanis. I think these are frankly positive developments that we would like to encourage, as Pakistan looks to its strategic position.”

The comments came days after Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman strongly advocated to a major security forum that Pakistan has no desire to treat Afghanistan as its strategic backyard.

In his comments, Olson also underlined that “it is important that discussion (on such issues) take place against the context of some predictability in the overall (US-Pakistan) relationship.”

As ambassador, the career diplomat said, he would hope to bring to the relationship some sense that the US wants to replace a transitional relationship with a long-term ties with Pakistan.

In this respect, he noted that the US assistance for Pakistan help demonstrate that “our relationship is not short-term but long-term.”

Senator John Kerry, who presided over the hearing as chairman of the influential panel, said Pakistan has suffered grievously in the fight against terror.

Kerry saw realisation in both Islamabad and Washington that both sides stand to gain from a middle ground on issues and cooperative ties.

In reference to Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman's diplomatic efforts, Kerry, the former Democratic presidential candidate described his meeting with the envoy in positive light and welcomed the reopening of key Pakistani ground lines of communication into landlocked Afghanistan.

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