Commanders show readiness for cooperation with US

ISLAMABAD: Military’s top brass signalled cooperation with the United States and at the same time reassured the nation that there would be no compromise on national interest while doing so.

“National interest shall be kept at premium while cooperating with all other stakeholders for regional peace and stability,” the corps commanders resolved at their monthly meeting chaired by Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that the meeting reviewed the “geo-strategic and security environment” in the context of US policy towards the region.

Tensions between Islamabad and Washington intensified after the announcement of the Trump administration’s strategy for South Asia and Afghanistan, which was very critical of Pakistan for its alleged inaction against terrorist sanctuaries used for sustaining the insurgency in Afghanistan. A bilateral engagement process started afterwards to find a common ground, but the National Security Strategy document unveiled by US President Donald Trump in his new year day tweet and suspension of security aid left little doubt that the extensive Pak-US talks had failed to resolve the differences.

Almost at the same time as suspension of security aid, Pentagon quietly opened another channel with the GHQ over the problems in security cooperation. The GHQ later shared broader sense of conversations with Centcom Comman­der Gen Joseph Votel and an unnamed American senator.

The three key messages conveyed by the Centcom chief, during the initial communication, were that the problems in ties were temporary; there would be no unilateral action against Pakistan, and that the US did not want a disruption in ties rather it wanted cooperation from Islamabad on areas of its concern.

Senior diplomatic sources reveal that the contacts between the GHQ and Pentagon have continued away from the prying eyes of media.

The message from the corps commanders meeting, therefore, looks to be designed in a way to dismiss any misgivings about the engagement being conducted with the US.

The ISPR further said that the commanders reaffirmed their commitment to consolidate the gains of the successive counter-terrorism operations. At the same time it stressed that not only Pakistan would benefit from the improvement in the security situation due to the counter-terrorism operations but the region as whole would also benefit.

The meeting also discussed Indian ceasefire violations and noted that the breaches were “detrimental to peace”.

Violations by India have continued last year’s pattern when the highest number of violations – 1,881 – was recorded during a year since the understanding on ceasefire went into effect in 2003 resulting in martyrdom of 87 people. Over 200 violations by India have taken place so far this year in which 12 people, including four troops, have lost their lives.

“These or any Indian misadventure shall be responded effectively,” the forum said.