ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has flatly rejected the US demand for joint operations against militants on the former’s soil in the latest round of “inconclusive” talks between the two countries held this week, diplomatic sources told The News.
In his separate meetings with Pakistan’s civil and military leadership on Monday, the visiting US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, called for US-Pakistan join operations against the militants of Haqqani Network inside the tribal areas. However sources said the Pakistani leadership ruled out the possibility of the same.
Sources said the talks between the two sides largely remained inconclusive as Islamabad did not accede to the US demand for joint military operations on its soil. However, Mattis was told that Pakistan would be ready to take action against any group of militants on the receipt of actionable intelligence from the US side. Any foreign action on Pakistani soil is not acceptable, Mattis was told.
Mattis met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his brief visit to Pakistan this week. The fact that three separate press statements were issued after the meetings speaks volumes about disagreements among the parties, said a source.
During the talks, Pakistan put forward two solid demands in order to stop cross border terrorism. Firstly, the US has been asked to force the Afghan government to fence the Pak-Afghan border following a similar Pakistani initiative on its side. Secondly, Washington has been told to play its role in the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, a step that would ensure no militants can hide in the garb of refugees on the Pakistani soil.
“If the US could take these two steps, Pakistan would guarantee that its soil would never be used for any militant activities across the Afghan border,” a source privy to the details of the meeting said.
Sources claimed that the meeting was held in a cordial environment and the US side also acknowledged Pakistan’s concerns regarding the Indian military presence in Afghanistan and even hinted at playing some role in the resolution of disputes between the two South Asian nuclear states, including the core issue of Kashmir.
Pakistan is confident that the United States will amend its South Asia strategy announced by President Trump in August this year. Pakistan had expressed strong reservations about the strategy which called for an increased role of India in Afghanistan.
Earlier, while talking to The News, a State Department spokesperson said that the US had made clear its expectation for decisive action against terrorist and militant groups that operate from Pakistani soil.
“We have communicated specific steps that Pakistan can take to degrade these groups’ operational activities and to facilitate substantive peace talks between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan,” a State Department spokesperson told The News in an email response from Washington.