US, Pakistan to hold ‘structural dialogue’ soon: Ahsan Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the United States plan to conduct structured dialogue very soon, Minister of Interior Ahsan Iqbal said on Friday.

“We do not want dollars; we would rather extend an alliance based on mutual respect,” he added, saying Pakistan hopes for a “friendly, respectful” relationship. Iqbal went on to say it was not acceptable to Pakistan that the US security requisites were met, but Islamabad’s concerns were ignored. The US cannot hamper Pakistan’s economic relief, Iqbal added. “We want recognition of Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terrorism.”

Commenting on South Asia’s strategic issues, the minister mentioned that regional autonomy should be understood and respected. He explained that Pakistan and Afghanistan were closely linked to each other and would continue to be.

Islamabad and Washington, therefore, could together play a pivotal role in Afghanistan and the related peace process, he said. Further, in response to a question about a hearing that US Senator John Sullivan attended, Iqbal said: “It was acknowledged that Pakistan and its relations with Afghanistan are both a critical part of the peace process in Afghanistan.”

“Without better linkages, it (peace process) will not be successful. For peace in Afghanistan, US-Pak need to be restrengthened.”

Iqbal also highlighted that terrorism was a disease that affects people around the world, which was why the global fraternity must come together to fight it. “Terrorists are terrorists, no matter which side of the border they are on,” he said, referring to the US claim that senior leadership of the Afghan Taliban had taken refuge in Pakistan. “Share intelligence on terrorists; we are ready to conduct operations,” he said. Earlier in the day, Iqbal talked to BBC World News Barbara Plett about Pakistan’s oscillating relationships with the US and China, especially in the light of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). When asked if better ties with Pakistan’s northside neighbour sweetened the bitter regional issues, the minister said: “I think it does not take the pressure off but it brings great strength to Pakistan’s economy because [it] was not [getting] foreign investment in big scale.”

Published in Daily Times, February 10th 2018.