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Ahead of 2+2 dialogue with India, Pompeo urges Pakistan to take action against terrorists

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo travelled to Pakistan with military chief Gen Joseph Dunford, ahead of a visit to New Delhi for the inaugural 2+2 dialogue with India. The visit came days after Washington cancelled $300 million in security-related payments to Islamabad.

world Updated: Sep 06, 2018 07:09 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
2+2 dialogue,India,Pakistan
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2R) and Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (C/L) listen as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) speaks during a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Islamabad on September 5.(AFP Photo)

The United States on Wednesday urged Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to take “sustained and decisive” action against terrorists and militants threatening “regional peace” as secretary of state Mike Pompeo held talks in Islamabad aimed at resetting bilateral ties.

Pompeo travelled to Pakistan with the US military chief, Gen Joseph Dunford, ahead of a visit to New Delhi for the inaugural 2+2 dialogue with India. This was the first high-level US visit since Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new government assumed power last month, and came days after Washington cancelled $300 million in security-related payments to Islamabad.

Though Pompeo adopted a conciliatory tone by saying his meetings with Khan and foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had laid the ground for outcomes that can build “confidence and trust”, he also made it clear there was “a long way to go” before the US could think of resuming security-related aid to Pakistan.

Pompeo didn’t mention India but his remarks placed the onus for peace in the region on Pakistan. Pompeo landed in India on Wednesday evening and was received at the airport by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

Pompeo and US defense secretary Jim Mattis will have discussions with their Indian counterparts Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday.

“In all of his meetings (in Islamabad), secretary Pompeo emphasised the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability,” state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

Qureshi sought to give a positive spin to developments, tweeting that the talks marked the “beginning of a new dawn after a spell of darkness”. He also sought US help to ease tensions with India.

“We want ease on the eastern border if we have to look towards the western side,” Qureshi told reporters during a briefing. He added it is “important that we should look at it and see how we can improve that, who can help us to bring improvement (on the eastern border)”.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s House quoted Khan as telling Pompeo that his government’s agenda was “focussed on human development and poverty alleviation, for which peace and stability in the region was a prerequisite”. Khan also “underscored his commitment to peace with all neighbours”.

Khan also spoke of strengthening the relationship with the US based on “trust and respect” and shared Pakistan’s perspective on the situation in the region.

State department spokesperson Nauert said Pompeo expressed “hope for deeper counter-terrorism cooperation between our nations” during his meeting with Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

During a brief interaction with reporters before leaving for New Delhi, Pompeo said he had discussed “the opportunity to reset the relationship” with Pakistan and the work to be done to develop a “peaceful resolution in Afghanistan.” He added, “And I’m hopeful that the foundation that we laid today will set the conditions for continued success as we start to move forward.”

Asked about the resumption of security aid to Pakistan, Pompeo said: “So we’ve still got a long way to go, lots more discussion to be had, but the military-to-military (relationship) is one that has remained in a place where some of the other relationships haven’t, frankly.”

In response to a question regarding any US warning of increased punitive action, Pompeo said, “We made clear to them that — and they agreed — it’s time for us to begin to deliver on our joint commitments, right…And so there was broad agreement between myself and foreign minister Qureshi, as well as with the prime minister, that we need to begin to do things that will begin to actually, on the ground, deliver outcomes so that we can begin to build confidence and trust...”

Pompeo’s meetings were held against the backdrop of tense bilateral ties and sweeping cuts in American security aid because of Pakistan’s reluctance to go after terror groups based on its soil. The US has accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network, a charge denied by Islamabad.

The US suspended nearly $2 billion in security aid in January after President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of giving only “lies and deceit” in return for billions of dollars in aid over the years. Ahead of the talks, Dunford said Trump’s South Asia strategy set clear expectations for Pakistan, including help to drive the Taliban to a peace process in Afghanistan.

(With inputs from Rezaul Laskar in New Delhi)

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 23:10 IST