Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is in the US to attend the UN General Assembly session, said his country doesn’t have a complaint if India assists Afghanistan economically, but will never accept any political or military role for India in Afghanistan.
Reacting to US President Donald Trump’s recent Afghanistan Policy, in which he sought more help from New Delhi to bring peace and stability in the war-torn country, Mr Abbasi said Pakistan sees “zero” political or military role for India in Afghanistan.
Donald Trump, while announcing his new Afghan and South Asia policy last month, had criticised Pakistan for harbouring terrorists who target US soldiers from their “safe havens”. The US president had also called on India to help the US more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.
Asked about his view on India’s role in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s prime minister said, “We don’t foresee any political or military role for India in Afghanistan. I think it will just complicate the situation and it will not resolve anything. So if they want to do economic assistance, that’s their prerogative, but we don’t accept or see any role politically or militarily for India in Afghanistan.”
“But do you see a business role for them (India) in Afghanistan?” he was asked.
“That’s up to them. All countries have the right to trade with each other, invest in each others countries. So if they want to do that… and India has invested in Afghanistan in the past,” Mr Abbasi said.
Responding to another question about Pakistan’s spy agency ISI having terror links, the prime minister dismissed any links between the Haqqani network and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). “We do not condone any activities by any organisation to pose a terrorist threat within Pakistan or to export it to other countries,” Mr Abbasi said.
Prime Minister Abbasi also claimed that “nobody wants peace more in Afghanistan than Pakistan.”
“This perception that there are (terrorist) sanctuaries is absolutely not correct. We have defeated the enemy on our own territory. We have destroyed the sanctuaries,” he claimed.
“And today the cross-border incursions, if they happen, are from Afghanistan into Pakistan to attack our forces,” he alleged.
“We have told Afghans that if there is any sanctuary that they can give us coordinates for, we will take action against that sanctuary. As far as we are concerned, today no sanctuaries exist on Pakistani soil from which any activity takes place against Afghanistan,” Mr Abbasi claimed.
Asked about the presence of a number of terror groups and terrorists like Hafeez Saeed in Pakistan, Mr Abbasi said he (Hafiz Saeed) belonged to a “proscribed organisation”. He went on to say that “We have taken action against him. He is in house arrest. In the recent by-election, the candidate did use his picture in an election poster, which is illegal to do, and action will be taken against him by the election commission,” he said.
“We have taken action in the past and will act where it’s required. He (Hafiz Saeed) has been under detention for over 2-3 years now,” the prime minister claimed.
Addressing a New York audience at an event organised by the Council on Foreign Relations — a top American think-tank — Mr Abbasi said Pakistan wanted its relationship with the US to move forward despite their differences.
“It is a relationship that goes beyond Afghanistan. It is 70 years old, and we view it in that context. And we are engaged today. We want this relationship to move forward. And I don’t see any obstacles in that process,” Mr Abbasi said.
“The objective is the same: to fight terror and bring peace to Afghanistan. So that is our policy, and I think our performance on the ground proves that that we have fought terror, we defeated terror on our soil, and we intend to continue with that,” he claimed.
Responding to a question on US drone strike, Prime Minister Abbasi said all the forces operating in the region have to respect Pakistani sovereignty.
“That’s the way it should be. We respect Afghan sovereignty, they should respect our sovereignty. And bases are provided as requested. I don’t think there is a need for bases anymore on our territory,” he said.
Pakistan, he said, wanted to expand its economic relationship with the US.
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