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January 18, 2020

US must make responsible troops withdrawal unlike 80s, says FM Qureshi

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APP
January 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday asked the United States for a “responsible” withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and not to repeat the mistake of 80s’ pull out.

“Pakistan is asking [the US] for a responsible withdrawal unlike 80s which created a vacuum for the destructive forces to take over,” he said in an exclusive interview with Fox News.

Qureshi, who is in Washington DC to hold talks with the US administration in the wake of regional tension, spoke about the commitment of President Donald Trump on pullout of troops stationed in the conflict-hit Afghanistan.

He mentioned that Pakistan facilitated a dialogue with Taliban on the request of President Trump “in a hope for peace and stability”.

To a question on primary goal of his recent talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the foreign minister said it was aimed at de-escalation and defusing tensions to avert negative effects in the region.

On Afghan peace process, he expressed hope of an agreement between the US and Taliban. “The Taliban are today talking to US and there is a possibility of an agreement,” he said, mentioning about Thursday’s announcement by Taliban of a ceasefire of 7-10 days before they could take next step leading to dialogue.

On a query as to whether Prime Minister Imran Khan will participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s regional summit to be held in India this October, he said, “The Prime Minister is very very clear that if India takes one step, Pakistan will take two.”

However, he regretted that unfortunately India was showing a negative attitude. “Look at the repression and use of force going on, and the legislative work undertaken that saw protests all over India,” he said in reference to the siege in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the controversial passage of bills targeting minorities, particularly Muslims.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Qureshi has urged on the US to work with Pakistan as it politically mainstreams and economically develops the former tribal areas.

Speaking at an event of reputed American think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on “Reframing the US-Pakistan strategic relationship” in Washington DC late Thursday, the foreign minister said supporting economic activity along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border would benefit both sides.

Qureshi in a conversation — moderated by CSIS President John J Hamre, Senior Vice President Daniel F Runde and Senior Adviser Seth G Jones — touched several issues of regional and global importance ranging from Afghan peace, US-Iran standoff, Jammu and Kashmir situation and Pak-US bilateral ties. Qureshi stressed that the recent tension between the US and Iran must not put any negative impact on the peace process in Afghanistan, adding: “Having come this far, there should be zero-tolerance for any set-backs”.

He said both Pakistan and the US had “shed too much blood and expended too much treasure” and now must “honor the memory of our fallen soldiers and countrymen by successfully accomplishing the mission in Afghanistan”.

Considering Afghanistan a shared responsibility, he said Pakistan was playing its role and warned the stakeholders to be vigilant against “spoilers” as “not every country in the broader region wanted to see peace in Afghanistan”.

The foreign minister called upon the US to ensure phased and orderly withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan to not repeat the mistakes of 80s. He pointed out that Pakistan and the US must not remain hostage to the Afghan conflict and instead take a fresh look to enrich their historic relationship by working together for Afghan peace. Qureshi said his recent visits to three capitals — Tehran, Riyadh and Washington — was on instruction of Prime Minister Khan to convey Pakistan’s message to remain “partner for peace rather than be a part of any war in the region”.

He mentioned that Pakistan had close ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran and recalled that the Pakistan embassy in Washington looked after Iranian interests in the United States since Islamic Revolution.

“Deeply cognizant of the security and economic perils that a new war or a military confrontation entails, Pakistan has been ready from the outset to support efforts for defusing tensions and removing misunderstandings,” he said.

He said Pakistan welcomed the indication given by both the US and Iran to de-escalate tensions and clearly saw space for diplomacy. “Teetering on the brink, the world is direly yearning to see a glimmer of hope,” he added.

On situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Qureshi said Indian state terrorism and repression in the Valley and the BJP government’s incitement of religious hatred and frenzy in India had dangerous implications for the region. “The adherents of Hinduvta and Akhand Bharat have established their ascendency with disastrous consequences for all in India and the world to see,” he said. Qureshi said the Indian narrative that Kashmir was its “internal matter” was firmly refuted by its being on the Security Council agenda.

He expressed the hope that US President Donald Trump, who offered mediation on Kashmir, would be successful in realising his goal and could make a lasting contribution to sustainable peace in South Asia.

Qureshi pointed out that “force-fitting Pakistan-China relations into the currently popular framework of great power competition distorts the picture” and stressed that “far from being suspicious of CPEC, supporters of peace in the region should welcome the project.