ISLAMABAD: So impressed was US Senator John McCain, Chairman Senate Armed Services Committee, after his visit to the North Waziristan Agency on Sunday that he assured Pakistan that on his return he would “brief the US Congress appropriately for continued (US) support to Pakistan in its efforts towards economic development and the complete eradication of terrorism from the country.”
Also reassuring for Pakistan was the US assertion that India-US bilateral ties did not in any way impinge upon or diminish the importance of US relations with Pakistan. McCain and his delegation also pointed out that they deeply appreciated the enormous success achieved by Pakistan in its counterterrorism campaign which they said was “so impressively visible” during their trip to North Waziristan. They expressed satisfaction with the situation in Fata and they are going back with a positive message.
McCain arrived in Islamabad on Saturday and was heading a four-member bipartisan US Senate delegation, which includes Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Joseph Donnelly and Senator Benjamin Sasse.
After calling on Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Saturday, Sunday saw the US delegation meeting with Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, where Special Assistant to the PM on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry were also present.
Of late, there has been criticism in the US of the manner Pakistan is tackling terrorism on its soil, where even funding for eight F-16 fighter jets was withheld because Pakistan was not doing “enough”, specially to deny space to the Afghan Taliban’s Haqqani network.
While no mention of the F-16s was made in a statement made available by the spokesman at the Foreign Office, he certainly quoted the US delegation that not only commended the transparent process of Fata stabilisation carried out by the Pakistan government but “they wished that other members of the US Congress were also present with them to witness the outcome of the successful military operations in North Waziristan, themselves.”
The meeting at the Foreign Office nevertheless despite strains in bilateral relations saw both sides acknowledging that their relations have maintained “their strategic dimension over the decades and that the relationship would retain its vigour in the years ahead.”
While Islamabad has in recent days been openly critical of the US warming up to India, like publicly campaigning for its entry into the NSG, the US delegation held out an assurance that strengthening of the India-US bilateral ties did not in any way impinge upon or diminish the importance of US relations with Pakistan.Both sides agreed that in view of the growing challenges confronting the world, there should be greater contact between the two sides with Sartaj Aziz focusing on high level contacts and the significance of understanding of the leadership on both sides to make this partnership multidimensional and broader in canvas to cover all issues of mutual interests.
The US delegation reiterated the importance the US government and Congress attached to the stability and continued progress of Pakistan. In view of the growing challenges confronting the world, the senators recognised the need for greater contact between Pakistan and the US and to work together to address the regional and global challenges.
Sartaj Aziz also briefed the US delegation about recent meetings with the Afghan side, in Islamabad and on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Tashkent, on the vital issues of Pakistan-Afghanistan border management, Afghan refugees and the peace and reconciliation process.
He stated that Pakistan remains committed to the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) process in Afghanistan, which provided a broad, mutually-agreed mechanism aimed at facilitating the government and people of Afghanistan to take the lead in restoring peace, stability and economic prosperity in their country.”No country had as much vital stakes in the success of these joint efforts as Pakistan,” the adviser remarked.
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