Islamabad: In a fresh attempt to repair strained ties, senior officials from Pakistan and United States have met in Islamabad to explore common ground for renewed cooperation.
Deputy Assistant to the US president and the National Security Council’s senior director for South and Central Asia, Lisa Curtis, visited Islamabad on Monday and Tuesday, officials said.
Curtis was accompanied by US ambassador to Pakistan David Hale in the meetings, attended by senior Pakistani officials including Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Chief of General Staff Lieutenant-General Bilal Akbar.
Acknowledging Pakistan’s considerable sacrifices in fighting terrorism, Curtis said the “United States seeks to move toward a new relationship with Pakistan, based on a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan.”
She emphasised that the US South Asia strategy represents an opportunity to work together to bring about a stable, peaceful Afghanistan to “enable the dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland; the defeat of [Daesh] in South Asia; and the elimination of terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States.”
Curtis urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory, and reiterated the international community’s long-standing concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering/counterterrorism finance regime, according to a media release by US embassy in Islamabad.
Pakistan-US ties reached their lowest ebb towards the end of 2017, the when US piled pressure on Islamabad to cooperate with foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Tensions rose to new heights with US President Donald Trump’s New Year tweet on Pakistan which was seen in Islamabad as damaging the traditional bilateral relationship, and viewed as humiliating by many Pakistanis.
Over the last two weeks, the relationship remained tense after the US government vowed to place Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) watchlist for allegedly failing to cub money laundering.
The US move infuriated Islamabad amid fears it could hurt the fragile economy of Pakistan, whose de facto finance minister accused Washington of trying to “embarrass” his country.
However, the visit by Curtis has sparked fresh hope for normalisation of Pakistan-US ties.
Tensions with historic ally Washington have pushed Pakistan further into the arms of China, officials and analysts say.
Closer diplomatic and military ties between Beijing and Islamabad have come at a time when China is helping Pakistan’s economy grow by investing billions in infrastructure projects.
The United States and Pakistan have clashed over militants waging war in Afghanistan, with Washington accusing Islamabad of providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban and their affiliate, the Haqqani network. Pakistan denies helping the militants, saying the Islamist fighters are mostly across the border.
“Ms Curtis urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory,” the embassy added.
The Trump administration suspended about $2 billion (Dh7.34 billion) in security assistance to Pakistan in January, days after Trump tweeted that Pakistan has given nothing but “lies and deceit” in return for generous aid.
Islamabad responded that it doesn’t need Washington’s money but wants, instead, respect for the vast sacrifices it has made in the war on terror.
Curtis, who is also the US National Security Council’s senior director for South and Central Asia, also raised Washington’s worries about gaps in Pakistan’s anti-terrorist financing controls, a frequent criticism by Western powers who say not enough is done to curb fund-raising by militants.
The US motion to place Pakistan on the FATF “grey list” of nations with weak terrorist-financing controls was co-sponsored by Britain, Germany and France. Only Turkey opposed the US motion at a Paris meeting of nearly 40 member states.
— with inputs from Reuters