US Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Pakistan on Monday morning on a day-long visit. He held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Pakistan Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua and Director General (DG) ISI Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar along with US Ambassador David Hale were among those attending the meeting.
Mattis is the first high-level Trump administration official to visit the country. The issue of terrorism is likely to feature in the talks as US has time and again accused Pakistan of not doing enough to fight terror within its territory.
Ahead of his visit, Mattis said intends to find common ground with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism to restore stability and allow economic development in the region.
“We know we have some common ground. They have lost hundreds, thousands of their troops killed and wounded by terrorists. They have lost hundreds, thousands of their innocent people murdered and wounded by terrorists, so we know that there is common ground…it’s how much more common ground can we find by listening to one another without being combative with one another, listening to others perspective,” Mattis said.
“But at the same time, as the (Pakistan Army Chief) General (Qamar Javed Bajwa) has said, he wants no havens for terrorists anywhere, so we will work together and we’ll find that common ground, if we have the will to…And then we’ll work on how we address the problems where we can work together,” the Defence Secretary added.
Interestingly, Mattis’ visit to Islamabad comes just a week after 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed walked free. The US had asked Pakistan to immediately charge and arrest Saeed.
“There is clearly an abundance of areas where we have to double down, and I am optimistic at this point that because of what our adversaries, our mutual enemies are doing, that we can find ways to work together,” Mattis said while responding to a question.
Mattis also said that it was essential in South Asia that all work together to restore the level of stability that allows for the economy to build.
“I mean, can you imagine a border between Pakistan and India where economic trade is not ongoing to the benefit of people on both sides of that border. We can not only imagine it; it’s a reality right now…There’s people who are living below the poverty line in both those countries. So as you look at this problem, if you’ll expand the problem you can understand the sense of urgency to move beyond violence and get back to the normal order of things,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)