Visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Thursday said she was going to Pakistan for a “very specific and narrow purpose” in the context of Afghanistan and in a bid to make sure that they have the capabilities to ensure everybody’s security – including India’s and US.
“It’s for a very specific and narrow purpose, we don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan. And we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India, Pakistan. That’s not where we are. That’s not where we’re going to be,” she said while speaking at the Ananta Aspen Centre in Mumbai.
“But we all need to know what’s going on in Afghanistan. We all need to be of one mind in the approach to the Taliban. We all need to make sure that we have the capabilities that we need to ensure everybody’s security, including India’s and the US of course. And so, I’m gonna have some very specific conversations,” she said.
After her trip to India, Sherman is going to Pakistan, in what many saw as a hyphenation of the two countries.
“So it’s a very particular set of reasons for going and I am glad, as always, we share information back and forth between our governments, and I will be glad to brief them on the trip,” she said.
She said that countries should engage with the Taliban so that they can convey their concerns to them.
She also said that AUKUS and Quad “do not compete” and “they are all pieces of a puzzle, to ensure that we have an open, free, interconnected and inclusive Indo Pacific”.
Recalling an earlier trip to Pakistan in the 1990s after the Taliban came to power, Sherman said, “When I was counselor to Madeleine Albright [then US Secretary of State], I went with her to the Peshawar refugee camp. After the Taliban had taken charge, first time around. And because we were women, we were able to sit with the women and the girls to talk with them.”
“And at the time, my daughter was a young teenager and I listened to a young teenage girl talk about seeing her sister being raped and thrown out the window, and I listened to teachers and doctors who told me they could not do their profession anymore, homemakers tell me they could not go to get groceries anymore. It was one of the most chilling and heartbreaking meetings I’ve ever had in my life. And I thought about my own daughter and what it would mean for her life to live like that. So I share the profound concern we all have.”
“And I think what I hope is that everyone engaged with the Taliban, I have no problem, and the United States has no problem with people engaging with the Taliban, and telling them what needs to happen, that we live in the 21st century and that things have changed over the last 20 years. It is not the Afghanistan that they want to, and that it will be very hard to try to go all the way backwards and the international community has to stand as one,” she said.
“And so therefore, they have to not recognise this government to say, we have to see their actions, not just their words, and we have to make sure it’s an inclusive government, which it is not yet, that there is free and orderly, safe and orderly traveled by those who wish to relocate, that there not be a safe haven for terrorists and we haven’t seen that proven yet that human rights are respected, including those of women, girls and minorities, as well, that there not be reprisals and revenge, she said. “So there are a whole host of countries that say, you are a responsible nation living in that rules based order that we discuss under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I think if the world stands together on this, we have a chance, I don’t know the answer yet.”
On how AUKUS and Quad work, she said, “There are many elements that we need to ensure a free, open, inclusive, interconnected Indo Pacific. Quad is one vehicle, which largely upgrades in security realms that are non-military, non-defence, things that we do together on vaccines and infrastructure and supply chains and technology really climate — all the forward thinking areas in which we have to gain confidence and ensure the security for our people.”
“AUKUS is a new element of an understanding between the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia to spend the next 18 months, considering helping Australia, to build a fleet of nuclear propelled submarines. They are faster, they’re harder to detect, they are more agile and very useful in the environment in the Indo Pacific. It is a one of a kind project, which will be a game changer in a maritime sense,” she said.
“So, these pieces do not compete. They are all pieces of a puzzle, to ensure that we have an open, free, interconnected and inclusive Indo Pacific.”