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Foreign Minister's Remarks at Fourth Round Of Us-Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue

(2017-11-06) "Convergence Amid Divergence: Identifying Pathways to Cooperation in a Challenging Environment"

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies & Gentlemen,

Grateful to the organizers- RPI and Wilson Centre,for convening the fourth round of bilateral dialogue on an issue that in many ways would impact not only the future of this region but also the larger geo-political trends and shifts that are shaping our world today.

There is no doubt that the current environment in the region and beyond is challenging and complex. The global order is in a flux. In these uncertain times, states should draw upon partnerships that have been longstanding and have delivered at key moments in our history. Unfortunately, the manner in which the new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia was enunciated has created needless divergence.

Instead of all the dissonance, what should have been loud and clear is that the ultimate objective- the so called end-state, for both Pakistan and the US is exactly the same- a stable and secure Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with an ability to deny safe havens to terrorists.

Also lost was the fact that Pakistan has consistently argued against a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan as had happened in the 90's. This clearly implies that Pakistan wants US to succeed in its efforts for a stable and secure Afghanistan.

Our interests therefore converge completely in Afghanistan. Where we differ is the ways and means to achieve the end-state.

A country ravaged by conflict for the last four decades deserves an all-out commitment to peace and reconciliation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A conditions based approach is primarily a strategy of denial and strategic stalemate. It would more likely lead to further fragmentation and divisions within an already fractured society-making it that much more difficult to build peace mechanisms and related structures.

Secondly, guaranteed of an indefinite US support, a conditions based approach provides no incentives for the Afghan government to reform and come up with an inclusive peace and reconciliation plan.

Today, Afghanistan faces huge challenges with respect to corruption, building state institutions, transitioning from a war economy, record drugsproduction, ethnic and tribal divisions, and expanding ungoverned areas. All these are monumental tasks, and all are internal to Afghanistan.

Therefore, we felt that it was a bit unfair to name Pakistan for all that afflicts Afghanistan. However, subsequent high level interactions have cleared a lot of air and now we understand each other positions much better.

Today, I can say with some confidence that the pathway to cooperation is quite clear. There exists broad agreement on major issues related to border management, return of refugees, safe havens in Afghanistan and how to deal with so called safe havens in Pakistan.

Pakistan, after great sacrifices, has been able to dismantle terrorist networks and establish the writ of the government across the length and breadth of the country. We can now claim with a degree of certainty that there is no organized presence of terrorists within Pakistan.

However, considering the porous border and millions of refugees, there may still be remnants of thesegroups, and the only way to deal with them is moreintelligence cooperation.

A one takeaway from the successful rescue of Caitlin Coleman and her family is the need for deepening cooperation on intelligence sharing. Pakistan is committed to respond effectively to any actionable intelligence provided by the US. This is the only way forward to test each otherís resolve and commitment to combat terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our fight against extremism and terrorism is purely in our own self-interest. While we have made significant gains, extremism and terrorism is a global phenomenon and would require international cooperation for times to come. We are committed to this fight till we rid our soil of the last remnants and we are equally committed not to let our soil be used against any other country.

We also have broad agreement on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. Pakistan will do all it can to further this process, whether in the QCG or any other regional forum. Additionally, we have intensified interactions with Afghanistan and proposed working groups and mechanisms to build trust and cooperation. We have also reached out to neighboring countries to reach common understandings on furthering peace in Afghanistan.

However, major work has to be done within Afghanistan. Pakistan along with other countries can only facilitate such a process.

Friends,

On US' South Asia policy as well, we do have broad convergence. The US has assured us that Indiaís role in Afghanistan is limited to economic assistance and that the US would not tolerate Afghan soil to be used against Pakistan.

We also welcome US role to facilitate normalization of relations with India and to lower tensions along our eastern borders. Pakistan has never shied away from the comprehensive dialogue process in line with our policy of peaceful neighborhood.

We also share the US objective of economic integration of the region through trade and connectivity. As Secretary Tillerson has noted South Asia remains one of the least integrated region in the world. Pakistan is ready to host the SAARC summit that was in the process of finalizing some major connectivity projects. SAARC remains the only viable organization to achieve this objective.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Therefore, in reality, there is hardly any major divergence on our policies both for Afghanistan and the region. The divergences if any are in perceptions.

And perceptions do not take into account that both countries have been allies since the fifties. Together, we pushed back Soviet Union from Afghanistan anddecimated Al-Qaeda from the region. Our GLOCs and ALOCs have been at the US and NATO disposal since 2002. Our counter terrorism efforts and cooperation has prevented countless attacks in Europe and the US.

And in the process, Pakistan has lost tens of thousands of lives and the gains that we have made are at the cost of tremendous sacrifices. By any metrics, our law and order situation is fast returning to normal. And during this time, we have also been able to turn our economy around and put it on a path of high growth rate.

This is the reality of Pakistan and our track record of cooperation and convergence with the US and the international community. It is the negative perception and the accompanying narrative that is the real cause of perceived divergence. And in fighting perceptions, both US and Pakistan have a lot of work to do. Hope, this fourth round of bilateral dialogue would try to address this issue. I Thank you.