ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has vowed to remain engaged with the United States in fighting regional terrorism and stabilizing Afghanistan, but said “any political or military” role for its archenemy India in the war-torn country will be unacceptable for Islamabad.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi made the remarks late Wednesday during a public talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
While outlining his long-awaited “new strategy” for the Afghan war and South Asia last month, U.S. President Donald Trump advocated for a greater role for New Delhi in Afghanistan despite Islamabad’s long running objection.
“If they [India] want to do economic assistance, that’s their prerogative, but there’s no — we don’t accept or see any role politically or militarily for India in Afghanistan,” Abbasi asserted. “I think it will just complicate the situation and it will not resolve anything,” warned the Pakistani prime minister.
Islamabad alleges the Indian intelligence agency is partnering with Afghan security institutions to fund and plot terrorist attacks against Pakistan through fugitive anti-state militants.
Kabul and New Delhi deny the charges.
Pakistani officials said Abbasi also raised his country’s objections over India’s proposed role in his talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The meeting was the highest contact between Washington and Islamabad since Trump announced his “new strategy” in his August 21 speech. He accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists staging deadly attacks against American forces in Afghanistan despite receiving billions of U.S. dollars in financial assistance.
In a Twitter post after the meeting, Pence said he reiterated President Trump’s “belief” that “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort” in the region.”
While speaking at the Council, Prime Minister Abbasi repeated Pakistan’s resolve to promote a peaceful settlement to the Afghan conflict, saying Pakistani security forces have destroyed all sanctuaries on its soil that were allegedly being used to wage cross-border attacks.
“This perception that there are sanctuaries is absolutely not correct… We have destroyed the sanctuaries. And today the cross-border incursions, if they happen, are from Afghanistan into Pakistan to attack our forces,” Abbasi asserted.
Ghani calls for 'comprehensive' dialogue
Speaking separately at the Asia Society in New York hours earlier on Wednesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani suggested Pakistan was not doing enough to counter terrorism and prevent Taliban insurgents from using Pakistani sanctuaries to plot terrorism against his country.
Ghani reiterated his offer of a “comprehensive” dialogue to Pakistani leaders for resolving the differences and promoting peace. He praised President Trump’s policy for Islamabad to become a “responsible stakeholder” in the fight against terrorism.
The Afghan leader has been insisting on having a peace dialogue with Pakistan he believes will eventually end the Taliban insurgency in his country.
Pakistani leaders dismiss those assertions and maintain Kabul needs to initiate talks with insurgents under an "Afghan owned and Afghan-led" peace process and Islamabad will make all possible efforts to facilitate it.
Singling out Pakistan by Kabul and Washington for the Afghan crisis is an attempt, say officials in Islamabad, to divert attention from security and political "failures" in Afghanistan.
“It is a unique opportunity for the leadership of Pakistan to discuss with us the legacy of the past in a determination not to repeat the past but to overcome the past,” said the Afghan president.
“So, here is the opportunity. If Pakistan does not take this opportunity I think they will pay a hard price,” Ghani warned but did not elaborate.
President Trump also has warned that Washington will not remain silent if Islamabad does not move against the alleged terrorist sanctuaries.
Kabul says Islamabad supports the Islamist Taliban and its partner, the dreaded Haqqani network, in a bid to influence Afghan affairs to counter India’s growing role in the war-shattered country.
Afghan leaders, however, dismiss as unfounded Pakistani concerns about India’s growing ties with Afghanistan and maintain no one will be allowed to use their territory against any country.