US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP)

United States asks Pakistan to play a ‘constructive role’ in the region

The development comes in the backdrop of a ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control and amid growing calls from experts for a re-set of US-Pakistan ties
By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Nadim Siraj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 11:01 AM IST

The United States on Thursday called upon Pakistan to play a “constructive role” in the region, especially across the border in Kashmir as well as in Afghanistan, in the backdrop of the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) and growing calls from experts for a re-set of US-Pakistan ties.

The US welcomed the India-Pakistan joint statement committing to a ceasefire along the LoC. “We encourage continued efforts to improve communication between the two sides and to reduce tensions and violence along the Line of Control,” said Ned Price, spokesperson of the US state department.

Asked about the trajectory of the relationship between the US and Pakistan under the administration of President Joe Biden, Price said Pakistan has an “important role to play” in bringing peace to Afghanistan.

But he went on to put Pakistan on notice, saying, “So clearly we will be paying close attention, and we urge the Pakistanis to play a constructive role in all of these areas of mutual interest, including in Afghanistan, including with Kashmir, including with our other shared interests.”

The Biden administration’s highest-level contact with the Pakistan government so far has been between secretary of state Antony Blinken and foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. They spoke on the same day as Blinken and India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar did, for the first time.

President Biden and Prime Minister Imran Khan have not spoken yet.

Price’s response to a question about the forward trajectory of America’s relationship with Pakistan came amid growing talk of a reset of ties between the two erstwhile allies.

“Voices sympathetic to Pakistan in Washington are advocating a reset of US-Pakistan relations, setting aside the bitterness of the past,” Aparna Pande, a South Asia expert with the think tank Hudson Institute, recently wrote in a piece calling for a reset of US-Pakistan ties.

“Their essential argument is that as a nuclear weapons power with a large army, which has been a friend of the United States in the past, Pakistan simply cannot be ignored,” she said.

Pande concluded, “The US should, of course, not ignore Pakistan. But Americans should be wary of plans that draw the US back into embracing Pakistan or depending on it. Pakistan is now China’s closest ally and its overtures to the US are designed only to evade the consequences of its anti-American conduct.”

Price’s call to Pakistan to play a “constructive role” seemed to be a studied response to the growing call for a reset of ties, reminding advocates of a deep-seated suspicion of an erstwhile ally who took billions of dollars in aid to combat terrorism, but ended up fuelling it.

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