SEP 20, 2018: Pakistan seeks an equitable relationship with the United States based on mutual respect and the financial military assistance provided by the US to its non-Nato ally ‘is of secondary importance’.
“We want a good relationship with the US based on mutual respect, an equitable relationship,” said Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi while addressing American and Pakistani media members at an interactive session with the “South Asia Watchers” at the Pakistan embassy in Washington D.C. earlier this week.
The Naval Chief is in the US to attend International Seapower Symposium (ISS).
In response to a question about the suspension of $300 million counter-terrorism related security aid to Pakistan, including the freezing of military assistance, Abbasi said the financial military assistance provided by the US ‘is of secondary importance’ — a former US ambassador to Pakistan has termed the recent cutting of security funds to Pakistan as a terrible decision.
A prominent US daily “The Washington Times” has said that Imran Khan elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan offered Washington with a rare window to reset relations with its critical ally. Khan has stated he wants partnership for peace not war in Afghanistan.
Some US media reports staid the Trump administration has been divided over whether to reconsider the president’s aggressive policy of withholding millions of dollars in sensitive security assistance to Pakistan — a hammer he used to further his South Asia Policy, but isn’t working observers say.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford visited Islamabad in the first week of the month. He left announcing he was upbeat about resetting the button after meeting PM Imran Khan, the Foreign Minister and the Army Chief.
Abbasi highlighted that despite US President Donald Trump’s suspension of Pakistan from the US government’s International Military Education and Training (IMET) program that shuttered opportunities allocated for 66 Pakistani officers, Pakistan continued to send officers for training in the US ‘funding the program from our own resources’.
The training programs between the US and Pakistan have been in place for over a decade, and were seen as a hallmark of their good bilateral relations.
However, Abbasi did not elaborate whether Pakistani funded officers were participating in the coveted programs at the top US military institutions that include: the US Naval War College, Naval Staff College, and courses that include cyber-security studies and programs that officers previously participated in under IMET.
While responding to some members of the American media, Abbasi defended Pakistan’s decision to counter India’s sea-based nuclear program, by testing the Babur- III missiles. He said the sea-based nuclear weapons gave India an assured second strike capability that ‘disturbs the equation’, tipping a crisis situation between the two countries in India’s favor; therefore, he said ‘unless we equate the balance it may induce India to start a war’.
“We have legitimate concerns and our program is aimed at discouraging India from doing so,” he stressed to American journalists.
Speaking on the Afghanistan imbroglio, he dismissed the assertion that Pakistan is seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan. He stressed, “the strategic depth is a myth”.
“Afghanistan is a separate, sovereign country and we respect it as that. Whatever strategic depth we have is our own,” he said. He continued to highlight the threats experienced from Afghanistan. He explained that the election of a new Pakistani Prime Minister will not change Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan. “Our policy has always been to work towards peace and stability,” he said.
He continued, “terrorists take refuge in Afghanistan and use its territory for launching attacks into Pakistan. The most recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan. That’s why we are trying to fence our border,” he said. “We are all for a political solution to the Afghan problem.”
Speaking on the India-US relationship that recently saw the two countries sign a maritime agreement, Abbasi stressed, “this did not affect planned future US-Pakistan naval exercises.” He said ‘it is not a zero sum game… just because the US is doing exercises with India doesn’t mean it will not do exercises with Pakistan.”
He then announced Pakistan plan to host multinational maritime exercises in February 2019, that will see around 50 international navies participate – including China and the US.
Speaking on China, he dispelled a recent report that China had established a base in Gwadar port. “There’s absolutely no truth to that” he said, “it was a commercial hub,” adding “there are no plans of any foreign bases anywhere in Pakistan.” Furthermore, he explained there have not been any “international war ships” that have traveled through Gwadar port. However, when Gwadar eventually opens for business “all navies will be welcome,” he said.