ISLAMABAD - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson undertook his inaugural visit to Pakistan to urge the country's leaders to step up counter militancy and counterterrorism efforts.
Tillerson led his delegation into meetings Tuesday with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the country's military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the head of the spy agency and other top officials.
They discussed continued bilateral cooperation and partnership, and expanding economic ties between Pakistan and the United States, said a U.S. embassy statement.
"The Secretary reiterated President Donald Trump's message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country," the statement said.
To address those concerns, it added, Tillerson outlined Washington's new South Asia strategy and the vital role Pakistan can play to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region.
"Pakistan and the United States share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States," the statement quoted Tillerson as telling Pakistani officials.
A separate statement issued by the prime minister's office quoted Abbasi as underlining the importance of high-level engagements between Pakistan and the United States and expressing satisfaction on the progress made during these interactions in recent months.
"The two sides agreed to build upon the understandings reached in the dialogue process and to continue the pace and scope of high-level engagements in [the] future," according to the Pakistani statement.
It said Abbasi also informed the U.S. delegation of steps Islamabad has taken to promote cooperation and stability in Afghanistan and the region, including enhancement of border security.
The statement quoted Abbasi as saying that progress in promoting peace and stability in the region was linked to the resolution of Pakistan's territorial dispute with India over Kashmir.
Relations between India and Pakistan, almost always on a roller coaster in their 70-year history of independence from the British, seem to be in a downward spiral for the past two years. Both sides used harsh words against each other at the recent U.N. General Assembly in New York, accusing each other of human rights abuses or supporting terrorism.
Indian Pakistani dialogue
Tillerson is scheduled to hold talks with Indian leaders Wednesday in New Delhi, where tensions between India and Pakistan are expected to come under discussion.
"The possibility of an India-Pakistan dialogue will be discussed, and Mr. Tillerson will also brief his Indian counterparts on the outcome of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group [U.S.-China-Afghanistan-Pakistan] meeting on talks with Taliban that took place in Oman on October 16," a source familiar with the planning for the visit told the Indian English-language daily The Hindu.
Tillerson briefly visited Afghanistan on an unannounced trip Monday to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and other top officials of the Afghan unity government.
Speaking to reporters after talks with Afghan leaders, Tillerson said the U.S. relationship with Pakistan will be based on how Pakistan acts, and that the goal is to create the opportunity for peace and stability both there and in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is accused of publicly supporting the U.S.-led international mission in Afghanistan but secretly providing support and shelter to the Taliban, as well as its ally, the Haqqani network. Islamabad denies the charges.
In Afghanistan, Tillerson discussed the new U.S. strategy for South Asia.
"I think the U.S. has made it clear in terms of our support for Afghanistan, support for a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, charting a path to peace, prosperity and self-reliance. It is imperative at the end that we are denying safe haven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world," Tillerson said.
Ghani said the new U.S. strategy brought a positive change in the region and added, "all stakeholders should carry out their responsibilities sincerely," according to the statement from the presidential palace.
Tillerson is on a multi-nation tour of the Middle East and South Asia. It also included an unannounced trip to Iraq.
VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem and Nike Ching contributed to this report.