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Pakistan welcomes US mediation to ease tensions with India: Khawaja Asif

Foreign minister Khawaja Asif did not provide details of how the US could mediate between India and Pakistan - a suggestion that has persistently rejected by New Delhi.

world Updated: Nov 06, 2017 18:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
India-Pakistan relations,foreign minister Khawaja Asif,US mediation
Pakistan foreign minister Khawaja Asif (left) and US ambassador David Hale attend the 4th round of the US-Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue in Islamabad on November 6, 2017. The event, organised by private think tanks, is aimed at improving bilateral relations, and working towards a resolution to the conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan. (AFP)

Pakistan welcomes mediation by the United States for easing its ties with India, foreign minister Khawaja Asif said on Monday against the backdrop of the stalemate in relations between the two South Asian rivals.

Addressing the fourth round of the US-Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue - organised by private think tanks to improve bilateral relations and work towards a resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan - in Islamabad, Asif said Pakistan has always opted for comprehensive dialogue for a peaceful neighbourhood, according to state-run Radio Pakistan.

Asif did not provide details of the way in which the US could mediate between India and Pakistan – a suggestion that has persistently rejected by New Delhi, which insists that all issues between the two sides should be handled only though a bilateral dialogue.

India and Pakistan have not had any formal talks since external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Islamabad in December 2015. Both sides agreed at the time to launch a Comprehensive Dialogue but it failed to take off after a string of terror attacks on military facilities that were blamed on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Referring to the new US policy for South Asia and Afghanistan and the role of India, Asif said, “America has assured us that New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan will be limited to economic assistance only.”

President Donald Trump’s new policy for South Asia, which he unveiled in August, envisages a greater role for India in stabilising Afghanistan. It also includes greater pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorists and militants operating from its soil.

Asif said it is “unfair to blame Pakistan for whatever ails Afghanistan” as Pakistan has “eliminated terrorism from its soil after great sacrifices and now there are no terrorist safe havens here”.

He also called for Saarc to be activated and for steps to promote trade in the region, which has suffered for long because of the instability in Afghanistan.

Talking to the media after the dialogue, Asif described the differences in Pakistan-US relations as “only misperceptions which are being put aside by continued dialogue”.

Recent high-level exchanges between the two sides have “cleared the air”, he said. He added, “We look forward to confidence building to achieve the goal of peace in the region.”

The theme for the US-Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue was “Convergence amid divergence: Identifying pathways to cooperation in a challenging environment”. Asif said during the dialogue that Pakistan is fully committed to protecting its sovereignty with self-defence and self-interest as its first priority.

“We will also not allow our soil to be used against any other country,” he said.

Pakistan, he said, is ready to cooperate with other countries to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan and intelligence-sharing is an imperative for improving the management of the border with Afghanistan. “The US should share timely intelligence and Pakistan will take action itself,” he added.

First Published: Nov 06, 2017 17:37 IST