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Pakistan suspends talks and visits with US over Trump’s remarks

Pakistan has suspended talks and bilateral visits with the US to protest against President Donald Trump’s critical remarks about the country providing safe havens to terrorists.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2017 22:46 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan-US relations,Pakistan suspends talks with US,terrorism
File photo of Pakistan foreign minister Khawaja Asif at the Parliament House in Islamabad in August 2017. (AFP)

Pakistan has suspended talks and bilateral visits with the US to protest against President Donald Trump’s speech in which he censured Islamabad for providing safe havens to terror groups, foreign minister Khawaja Asif reportedly said during an in-camera session of the Senate.

The upper house of Parliament was converted into a committee on Monday for a private discussion on proposals being framed by a Senate panel to help the government finalise its response to the Trump administration’s new policy for Afghanistan.

Local media quoted sources as saying that Asif told the Senate that Pakistan had taken Trump’s remarks “seriously” and suspended talks and bilateral visits. As an immediate reaction, Asif postponed his first trip to Washington after becoming foreign minister and a visit to Pakistan by the US acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, had also been postponed, he said.

Though Pakistan’s Foreign Office has not officially commented on the suspension of bilateral visits and talks, the postponement of the two high-profile visits is being seen as a significant development.

Asif also told the Senate that the new US policy for South Asia did not envisage a military role for India in Afghanistan, the sources said. India’s role was limited to economic development and New Delhi would not be allowed to use Afghan soil to destabilise Islamabad, he added.

Foreign secretary Teh¬mina Janjua told the Senate that a three-day meeting of Pakistan’s envoys had been convened from September 5 to forge a strategy to respond to the new US policy on South Asia.

In a related development, Pakistan and China joined hands on Monday to oppose the new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, saying there should be a political solution to the long-running conflict.

The statement came as China’s special envoy on Afghan affairs, Deng Xijun, visited Islamabad at Pakistan’s invitation and held talks with foreign secretary Janjua on regional and international efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

Deng reaffirmed China’s “continuing and firm support to Pakistan’s commitment and efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan” and emphasised that there could be no military solution to the conflict. He underlined the need for a politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

His remarks clearly suggested China, like Pakistan, is not enthused by the new US plan for Afghanistan.

In another sign of China’s support for Pakistan, Deng lauded the country’s contributions in the fight against terrorism. He said: “Pakistan’s efforts towards eliminating the scourge of terrorism should be fully recognised by the international community.”

Janjua underlined the importance of the Pakistan-China strategic partnership and emphasised the need for close cooperation and coordination to promote the shared objective of peace and stability in the region. She also expressed satisfaction at the productive deliberations held between the two sides during her visit to Beijing last week.

They agreed to strengthen cooperation to facilitate peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan as well as meaningful engagements between the three neighbouring countries.

Foreign minister Asif is expected to go on a tour of regional countries, starting with China, to garner support in the face of renewed strains in the ties with the US.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 22:38 IST