Washington, March 8 (IANS) Militants operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan “continue to threaten Afghan stability as well as stoke tensions between Pakistan and India”, a top US commander has said.
In a briefing to the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, US Central Command Commander General Joseph Votel said the US was looking to all regional actors “to cease behaviour undermining regional stability and play constructive roles in achieving peace in Afghanistan as well as the whole of South Asia”.
He said cross-border attacks by violent extremist organisations fuelled instability and generated tension along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
According to the general, though Pakistan took “positive steps to assist Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in support of Afghanistan reconciliation by facilitating talks with the Taliban”, it avoided taking any concrete steps such as arresting or expelling Taliban leaders who do not cooperate with reconciliation efforts.
“If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the US will have opportunity and motive to help Pakistan fulfil that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the US and Pakistan.”
The US general also spoke on Beijing’s rising influence in South Asia and highlighted Pakistan’s role in the process.
“China is already partnering with Pakistan for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor as a central piece of Beijing’s One Belt-One Road initiative. China financed and gained access to the Gwadar Port (in Pakistan) enabling access to the Arabian Sea.
“For China, economic power is the primary tool, and while many One Belt-One Road projects do not pose direct threats to US national interests, burgeoning Chinese economic power could support and mask longer-term military and political objectives.”
Gen Votel said that Central and South Asia cooperation between Washington and Beijing “offers opportunities for peaceful dialogue and a chance for the US to balance China’s economic rise and reinforce its commitment to global norms for the benefit all”.