Pakistan today told US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke that peace with India is a must for it to concentrate on the war against terror along the Afghan border,in an apparent bid to put pressure on Washington to play a more active role in defusing Indo-Pak tensions.
Acknowledging that India and the Kashmir issue are not part of Holbrooke’s mandate,Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he had made it clear to the envoy that if Pakistan has to remain focussed on the western front,a calm eastern front is a must.
Holbrooke’s mandate is Afghanistan and Pakistan,period, Qureshi told a news conference in the Foreign Office.
He said the US has been playing a positive role in defusing tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
Replying to a question,Qureshi said the Mumbai incident did not surface during his meeting with Holbrooke.
Pakistan’s position that US drone attacks on militants in the tribal areas are counter-productive for the war on terror was conveyed to Holbrooke.
With the administration of new US President Barack Obama undertaking a review of its policy for the region,Pakistan has to be on board for such an exercise,Qureshi said.
Holbrooke was quoted by Qureshi as saying that US intended to complete its review of its regional policy by April 2,when the new policy will be unveiled at a NATO summit.
Pakistan and the US agreed to set up an inter-agency team led by Holbrooke and Qureshi to review all policies and to design a new strategy. The Pakistani military will also be part of this new team.
Qureshi said he had made it clear that a policy on Afghanistan could not be forged in isolation. He suggested that a trilateral meeting of Afghanistan,Pakistan and the US should also be held before finalising the new US strategy for the region.
He also conveyed to Holbrooke Pakistan’s position that a planned US troop surge in Afghanistan might not be enough if it is not accompanied by a civil surge.
The military surge might have implications for Pakistan and the US should also tackle a disconnect within foreign forces operating in Afghanistan,he said.
Holbrooke was also quoted by Qureshi as saying that he had not come to Pakistan with a proposal package or to issue demarches and that he was in the country to listen and understand the ground realities.
During his meeting with Holbrooke,Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani sought early resolution of the Kashmir issue to ensure lasting peace and stability in the region. He said the issue had bedevilled Indo-Pak ties for over six decades.
Gilani also said the Obama administration should reconsider the policy of US incursions into Pakistan’s tribal areas as such actions have proved counter-productive and are promoting anti-American feeling in the area while severely undermining public support for counter-terrorism measures.
He also called for taking steps to eliminate drug money which is the main source of funding for terrorists.
Pakistan and the new US Administration must base their relationship on trust,cohesion and understanding of each other’s strengths and constraints in their struggle against extremism and terrorism,Gilani said.
Pakistan would like to engage with the US to build a new global strategic consensus for peace,security and stability in the region,he added.
Gilani also called enhanced cooperation in defence and intelligence-sharing between the two countries. He said there is a need to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with terrorism,militancy and extremism with emphasis on dialogue and development.
Holbrooke said the US will fully support Pakistan in overcoming its economic problems despite its own economic difficulties. He also said that Obama feels a close affinity to Indonesia and Pakistan as he had travelled through or lived in these countries in his youth.
Qureshi also accepted Holbrooke’s invitation to visit the US for a meeting of the new inter-agency team so that the Obama administration could complete its strategic review of regional policy.
Holbrooke,who arrived here yesterday for a four-day visit,also called on President Asif Ali Zardari.
He is expected to meet Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and travel to Peshawar or the tribal areas to get a first-hand view of the operations being conducted by security forces against the local Taliban.