A HIGH-LEVEL US Senate delegation met Pakistan’s top foreign affairs official and powerful military chief in Islamabad to discuss regional security as Washington gears up to send more troops to neighbouring Afghanistan.
The Sunday visit by members of the influential Senate Armed Services Committee, including top Republican John McCain, came days after Islamabad slammed Washington’s decision to sanction a Kashmiri militant leader.
The relationship between the US and Pakistan has been strained at times with some in Washington believing Islamabad has not done enough to bring its influence to bear to persuade the Afghan Taliban to renounce violence.
McCain described US engagement with Pakistan in the region as “important” in his meeting with Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, according to a foreign ministry statement.
Aziz for his part vowed Pakistan remained committed to “constructive engagement” with the US in the efforts to create a “stable and prosperous” Afghanistan.
He said Islamabad was ready to deepen its partnership with Washington in the fight against militancy, including against the expanding footprint of the Islamic State group in the region.
Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also called US co-operation a “key factor” in security, as McCain agreed on the importance of coordination between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a military statement said.
Pakistan has received billions in US aid since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Washington is actively considering sending more troops to the war-torn country to help struggling Afghan forces beat back the resurgent Taliban, with American commanders requesting thousands of extra boots on the ground.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has legislative oversight of US military affairs. Other members of the delegation – which arrived on Sunday and was due to leave on Monday – included Lindsey Graham, Elizabeth Warren, David Perdue and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Last week, the US imposed sanctions on Syed Salahuddin, senior leader of the Kashmiri militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, to the dismay of Pakistan after a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from the UK in 1947, but both claim the territory in its entirety.
Aziz stressed Pakistan’s belief in Kashmir’s right to self-determination in the meeting with the US senators, the foreign ministry statement said. – AFP, July 3, 2017.