US National Security Adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster called on Pakistan to confront ‘terrorism in all its forms’ in a calculated statement issued on Monday, suggesting the President Donald Trump administration may put renewed pressure on Islamabad.
McMaster was the first high-ranking official from the Trump administration to visit Islamabad where he held a series of meetings with civil and military authorities, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, PM’s advisers on national security and foreign affairs.
McMaster will also visit New Delhi as part of regional consultations that included a stop in Kabul. His visit to Islamabad, however, was unannounced. The purpose of his regional tour is to assess the situation on ground, especially in Afghanistan before the Trump administration announces its policy.
He is accompanied by Acting US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller, Senior Director for South Asia Lisa Curtis and Director Pakistan Jay Wise in the National Security Council.
Lisa Curtis recently co-authored a paper calling on the new US administration to stop treating Pakistan as an ally and instead focus on diplomatically isolating it if it continues to support what the paper said were terror groups.
Before coming to Islamabad, MacMaster also questioned Pakistan’s regional approach. In an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo News channel on Sunday the American NSA said the best way for Pakistan to pursue its interest in Afghanistan and elsewhere was through diplomacy and not through the use of proxies.
Although Pakistan has been in touch with the Trump administration, this was the first time the civil and military leadership had an opportunity to put across the country’s perspective to a senior US figure on bilateral ties, Afghan situation and tensions with India.
A statement issued by the US Embassy described MacMaster’s engagement in Islamabad as ‘productive’. It said Gen McMaster expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s democratic and economic development, and stressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms.
The emphasis on fighting terrorism in all its forms indicated that the visiting US delegation was far from convinced with Pakistan’s position that its anti-terror campaign was indiscriminate.
The Pakistani side conveyed its concerns and perspective on the current regional situation, particularly in Afghanistan as well as tensions with India.
Though it was not acknowledged publicly, the American delegation was briefed on the activities of Indian state agencies in creating unrest in Pakistan with a particular reference to Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case.
According to an official release, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shared Pakistan’s concerns over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the continuing impasse.
The prime minister conveyed Pakistan’s readiness to work with the International community to explore ways in which the Afghan crisis could be resolved.
He also apprised him of the efforts and initiatives of his government, which had resulted in a marked improvement in the overall security situation, while also paving way for an economic turnaround in the country.
The premier emphasised that the developments, which fully captured the spirit of ‘new Pakistan’ were being widely acknowledged and appreciated by the international community.
He said that across-the-board consensus has been achieved by his government to combat extremism and terrorism.
“And structural reforms in the economy have laid the foundation of a moderate, progressive and democratic Islamic Republic that is ready to do business with the United States and the world at large.”
Sharif said as a longstanding friend and a partner, Pakistan was looking forward to forging a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with the US and to working with the new Trump administration, to promote peace and security in the region and beyond.
On relations with India, the prime minister reiterated his firm conviction on sustained dialogue and meaningful engagement as the only way forward to resolve all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan including the Kashmir dispute.
He welcomed President Trump’s willingness to help India and Pakistan resolve their differences, particularly on Kashmir and noted that this could go a long way in bringing sustainable peace, security and prosperity to the region.
Gen McMaster conveyed the greetings of President Trump and assured Sharif that the new administration was committed to strengthening bilateral relations and working with Pakistan, to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the wider South Asian region.
The American NSA was also separately briefed by PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the policies being pursued by the government that had resulted in improved security environment and economic turnaround in Pakistan.
On terrorism, the adviser noted that impressive gains had been made in eliminating terrorists and that Pakistan remained determined to continue this fight as part of the National Action Plan until the scourge of terrorism was completely eliminated from its soil.
He said the government was determined to maintain the existing momentum on both the security and economic fronts to lead the people of Pakistan towards a prosperous and secure future.
The adviser also shared Pakistan’s perspective on the plight of Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir and the status of relations with India. In reiterating Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood and commitment to dialogue and engagement, the adviser apprised the visiting delegation of the steps taken by Pakistan to reach out to both India and Afghanistan.