Foreign Minister Qureshi: Pakistan, US on ′same page′ over Afghanistan | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 18.01.2019
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Foreign Minister Qureshi: Pakistan, US on 'same page' over Afghanistan

In an exclusive interview with DW, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Islamabad is cooperating with Washington to find a political solution to the protracted conflict in Afghanistan.

DW: Efforts to bring the Taliban into negotiations with the US are underway. But US President Donald Trump has criticized Pakistan a number of times for supporting Islamist extremists in the region. He also alleges that Islamabad provides safe havens to militants that launch attacks in Afghanistan. Will these differences have an impact on peace efforts?

Shah Mehmood Qureshi: Presently, there is new thinking within the Trump administration and a new convergence of interests is emerging. Prime Minister Imran Khan has been stressing that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. If we want peace in Afghanistan, it must come through a negotiated political settlement. Reconciliation through an intra-Afghan dialogue is the best way forward.

Right now, the Taliban, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and almost every regional stakeholder are on the same page. Pakistan is trying to facilitate the dialogue. Hopefully, this will be a game-changer for the region.

Read more: Is Trump handing over Afghanistan to Pakistan?

Last year, an international terror watchdog put Pakistan on its "gray list" for Islamabad's inability to stop terror funding. Why has Pakistan failed to convince the international community that it is clamping down on terrorism funding?

Pakistan has taken concrete measures in this regard. Our team was recently in Australia to explain to [the watchdog representatives] about the steps we have taken since our government came to power [in August last year]. We are getting positive feedback. Hopefully, when the matter will be discussed in Paris at some point, Pakistan will be removed from the "gray list."

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But some political observers say that Pakistan has not really acted against the Jamaat ud-Dawa (Lashkar-e-Taiba)…

Pakistan has taken serious measures to stop money laundering and terror financing. We are cognizant of our responsibilities and we will fulfill them.

PM Khan says he is in favor of pursuing dialogue with India, Pakistan's arch regional rival. But it hasn't kicked off. Why not?

We want peace and stability in the region and to achieve it, talks with India, with which we have outstanding issues, are absolutely vital. When our party [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PTI) came to power, we offered New Delhi to come to the negotiating table to resolve conflicts. We feel it is the only way forward. PM Khan said that if India took one step toward peace, Pakistan would take two steps.

Unfortunately, India is in the middle of an election campaign and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is gearing up for the next general election. I don't think they are ready for talks at the moment. We have made the offer to India, and our offer is sincere. Whenever they are ready, we will engage with them.

Read more: Why Taliban won't make peace with Kabul

Pakistan's worsening economic situation is considered by many experts as a huge threat to its security. Don't you think that better economic ties with India would be beneficial for Pakistan?

Corruption and bad economic policies in the past have had a negative impact on our economy. Our government has inherited a very challenging economic situation. But PM Khan's government is working relentlessly to pull the country out of this economic mess. We have engaged with a number of institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with friendly countries to help our economy stabilize. We are also taking measures to attract foreign investment to Pakistan. We are also considering liberalizing the visa regime to promote tourism.

Regional trade, of course, is important. Normalizing our relations with India, Afghanistan and other regional countries is vital. Peace in the region, in my view, will promote bilateral and regional trade.

Does PM Khan's civilian government have complete control over the country's foreign policy? This has been a bone of contention between past governments and Pakistan's powerful military.

Obviously, foreign policy is conceived, drafted and implemented by the foreign office. Our office has very capable and competent people to do this job. Having said that, with the situation we are in, we need to seek input from our national security institutions. Our government has a good working relationship with our security institutions. We are in touch with them. We discuss things openly and collectively decide what is in our national interest.

Read more: Can Turkey broker peace in Afghanistan?

The interview was conducted by Shah Meer Baloch.

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