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‘US is not walking away from Pakistan’

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: The US Department of State’s Senior Bureau Official for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells has said that United States is not “walking away from Pakistan”, but while Pakistan has taken “initial constructive steps” against terrorists operating on its soil, they aren’t yet irreversible, India’s The Hindu reported.

Wells also welcomed Pakistan Army Chief Genera Qamar Javed Bajwa’s comments on ending proxy terrorist groups.

“I was heartened by the press comments by General Bajwa where he said things like the ‘state must have the monopoly on violence’, and there is ‘no role for non-state actors’…. Those are extremely positive statements and now I think the challenge is to see them implemented. We are certainly in a very good faith conversation with Pakistan,” Wells told The Hindu in an interview during her visit to Delhi.

Her comment comes after, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday announced the Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) committing to closer engagement on fighting terror.

The Hindu reported that when asked Wells denied any US-hand in the Afghan-Pakistan talks, but her ongoing visit to the region, including travels to Tashkent, Islamabad, Delhi and Kabul, dealt with the US’s South Asia policy for Afghanistan.

“I would say, bear with us, this isn’t the end of our diplomatic game. We are continuously engaging in Pakistan because we do see the need for change,” she said when asked about further steps against Pakistan if it fails to act against terror groups.

Wells also touched on Afghanistan’s trade efforts and said “the fact that this region has no regional trade is noteworthy and until we resolve that core conflict and open up the east and west, the potential for South Asia is not going to be achieved. We are deeply appreciative of the Indian efforts to use Chabahar to provide alternatives to Afghanistan to open up a channel to Central Asia. And we need to be creative in the absence of peace to ensure that Afghanistan can stabilize and grow”.

When asked if the US approved of the Chabahar route, in terms of it being owned by Iran, Wells said: “The standard set for Chabahar is that the deals should not benefit IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard) members, that’s for sanctions not to be imposed, and for business deals to go through.

“The legislation originally passed (JCPOA) has a specific carve-out for Chabahar and that’s an acknowledgment of the necessary role of giving land-locked Afghanistan access and alternatives as it seeks to build its economy.

“We have seen with the shipments of wheat that India has really helped to open up trade with Afghanistan including air corridors. It’s been striking that Afghanistan-Pakistan trade has declined 50 percent in the last year. India has provided options, and Afghanistan now needs the support of India and Central Asia,” she said.

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