McCain-led del­e­ga­tion vis­its Pak for se­cu­rity talks

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A US Se­nate del­e­ga­tion led by top Repub­li­can John McCain flew over Pak­istan’s tribal ar­eas yes­ter­day af­ter meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif to dis­cuss re­gional se­cu­rity, as Wash­ing­ton gears up to send more troops to neigh­bor­ing Afghanistan. The visit by mem­bers of the in­flu­en­tial Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee 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 Tale­ban to re­nounce vi­o­lence. McCain said “close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the US and Pak­istan was es­sen­tial for se­cur­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion” at the meet­ing with Sharif and other top Pak­istani of­fi­cials in Islamabad, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice. He also “at­tached im­por­tance to (US) re­la­tions with Pak­istan, which re­mained a close friend and ally”, the state­ment continued.

Sharif also called the Pak­istan-US part­ner­ship “es­sen­tial”, and re­it­er­ated Pak­istan’s com­mit­ment to an Afghan-led peace process in Afghanistan, with strong re­la­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton, Kabul and Islamabad a “pre­req­ui­site”, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment. Later the sen­a­tors flew with the mil­i­tary over South Waziris­tan in the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas to see progress on in­fras­truc­ture built there with US as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing roads and bor­der out­posts, and dam and ir­ri­ga­tion projects. A state­ment from the mil­i­tary said they were also briefed on bor­der se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing Pak­istan’s bid to fence the fron­tier with Afghanistan. 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 Tale­ban, 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 Sun­day and left yes­ter­day, in­cluded Se­na­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham, Se­na­tor El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Se­na­tor David Per­due and Se­na­tor Shel­don White­house. On Sun­day they met with Pak­istan’s top for­eign af­fairs of­fi­cial and the chief of its pow­er­ful mil­i­tary.

Last week, the US im­posed sanc­tions on Syed Salahud­din, se­nior leader of the Kash­miri mil­i­tant group Hizb-ulMu­jahideen, to the dis­may of Pak­istan af­ter a meet­ing be­tween In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Kash­mir has been di­vided be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan since their in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1947, but both claim the ter­ri­tory in its en­tirety.

Sharif stressed Pak­istan’s be­lief in Kash­mir’s right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion in the meet­ing with the US sen­a­tors Mon­day, the state­ment from his of­fice said, call­ing on Wash­ing­ton to help find a res­o­lu­tion to the nearly 70-year old dis­pute. —AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif (right) shakes hands with US Se­na­tor John McCain at Prime Min­is­ter House in Islamabad.— AFP

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