US role sought to ease IoK tension

Foreign Secretary apprises Alice Wells of Indian HR violations in IoK, truce breach on LoC Islamabad vows support to Afghan peace process

By Our Diplomatic

ISLAMABAD: Chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, Alice Wells, met Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood on Tuesday, where the two officials discussed a range of bilateral issues, including political engagement and economic partnership, a Foreign Office statement said. During the meeting, the foreign secretary and Wells, who is the acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, emphasised that a strong trade and investment relationship was key to advancing the shared vision of the leadership of both countries for a long term, broad-based and enduring partnership. The foreign secretary, for his part, highlighted the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK), “intensified ceasefire violations from the Indian side, belligerent rhetoric of the Indian civil and military figures, and India’s aggressive measures along the Line of Control”. He further stressed the need for the international community to play its role in the peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, said the Foreign Office spokesperson. The two sides also discussed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. The foreign secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to continue to support the peace process and pursue positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. Referring to the foreign minister’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States, and his telephone conversations with other foreign ministers, FS Mahmood underscored that Pakistan remained committed to supporting the efforts for de-escalation of tensions and promoting the prospects of a diplomatic way forward on the differences and disputes in the Middle East. Wells arrived in Islamabad on Sunday — after wrapping up her tour of India and Sri Lanka — for a four-day visit to Pakistan centred around talks on bilateral issues. Although Wells’ visit comes immediately after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s trip to Washington, her trip had been planned prior. Sources say that Wells is expected hold further meetings with representatives from Pakistan’s political and military leadership to talk about several issues, including Pak-US ties, the Afghan reconciliation process, ongoing tensions in the region and Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir. She will also speak at a think tank and engage with members of civil society on what the US State Department calls “issues of bilateral and regional concern”. According to a diplomatic source, the US diplomat is expected to follow up on the foreign minister’s discussions in Washington where he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O’ Brien, and Under Secretary of Defence John Rood. The foreign minister recently concluded a three-day visit to the United States — the third leg of his mission to defuse tensions in the Middle East — after having already visited Tehran and Riyadh as part of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts to ease tensions in the region. US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells Tuesday called on Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Petroleum Nadeem Babar. She was accompanied by US Ambassador to Pakistan Paul Jones, a Petroleum Division press release said. Nadeem Babar welcomed the visiting dignitary and gave her an overview of Pakistan’s energy sector. He highlighted recent reforms undertaken by the government that led to a quantum improvement in ease of doing business in the country and creating new investment opportunities in the energy sector.