Sherman downplays her remarks in India, talks of US-Pakistan’s “longstanding relationship”

Attempting to downplay her remarks in India that the US was not seeking a “broad relationship” with Pakistan, that followed months of Washington virtually cold-shouldering Islamabad, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has said the two countries have had a “longstanding relationship”

Oct 09, 2021
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US-Pakistan

Attempting to downplay her remarks in India that the US was not seeking a “broad relationship” with Pakistan, that followed months of Washington virtually cold-shouldering Islamabad, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has said the two countries have had a “longstanding relationship”.

Sherman, the first high-ranking US diplomat to visit Pakistan since President Joe Biden took over the White House in January this year, also indicated that Biden might soon make his first telephone call to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Since the Biden administration took charge, the relationship between the two countries has not been moving forward as observers believe that the US priorities may have changed after its exit from Afghanistan, according to the Pakistani media outlet The Express Tribune.

There is also a view on Capitol Hill that Pakistan was responsible for the US defeat in Afghanistan, though Islamabad insists it cannot be made the scapegoat for other’s failures.

The apparent chill in the relationship was visible when the American diplomat was received by a lonely mid-ranking Foreign Office official at the entrance of the Foreign Office.

Sherman, who flew from New Delhi, held talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“Our conversations have been forthright, deep and direct,” the visiting diplomat told a group of journalists at the US embassy before wrapping up her two-day visit. “We discussed the situation in Afghanistan, and what both the United States and Pakistan and indeed, the entire international community expect from the Taliban,” she added.

She said she also discussed the importance of holding  Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban accountable for the commitments they made.

She said the Taliban made many public commitments, on human rights, women’s rights, inclusive government, and on preventing Afghanistan from once again harboring terrorists who wished to harm the United States and its allies and partners.

“We will not, however, judge the Taliban on their words, but on their actions. And so far, their actions have fallen far short of those public commitments,” she added.

Official sources said she told Pakistani authorities not to recognize the Taliban government before they fulfill all of the commitments they made to the international community.

Despite her instance that she discussed a wide range of issues with Pakistani authorities, it was evident from her statement that the focus was on Afghanistan and counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.

 “We have a long counterterrorism relationship with Pakistan. And indeed, we’ll be continuing our counterterrorism dialogue. And so, we must work together in this changing environment. And it is always the case in diplomacy, where you want to create solutions that are to everyone’s mutual benefit,” she said.

Hours before she landed in Islamabad, the US deputy secretary of state said she was going to Pakistan with a specific set of reasons and her visit had a narrow purpose. “It’s for a very specific and narrow purpose,” she said while speaking at the Ananta Aspen Centre in Mumbai.

When her attention was drawn towards the statement, she attempted to play down the remarks by suggesting the US already had a longstanding relationship with Pakistan that covers a wide range of issues.

She also played down the recently proposed draft bill introduced by Republican senators seeking investigations into Pakistan’s role in the Taliban victory. “We have hundreds of pieces of legislation 1000s of amendments, they get offered all of the time”.

On the much-awaited telephone call between President Biden and Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sherman said everyone wanted to talk to the US president. “I’m sure it’ll happen sooner rather than later. So, I don’t think anyone should read anything into the timing,” she said.

(SAM)