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COAS Gen Bajwa, US Defence Secretary Austin deliberate on regional security goals

The Pentagon Press Secretary provided the correspondence between US Defence Secretary Austin and Pak army Chief Qamar Bajwa on the need for continued regional cooperation and ensuring security in South Asia concerning the ongoing Afghan situation.

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During the phone call on 9th August 2021, with Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the US Defence Secretary Austin highlighted his concern in continuing to improve the U.S. – Pakistan bilateral ties and build up mutual interests in the region. They discussed the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, regional stability and security, and areas of bilateral defense relationship comprehensively.

Cumulatively, the US-Pak bilateral ties have remained transactional with the convergence of interests in the backdrop of the Afghan peace process. On one hand, if Pakistan’s support to the US remains crucial to ensure regional security on the other hand, rapid geopolitical developments in South Asia particularly in the backdrop of Pakistan-China nexus and cooperation on CPEC has cast a shadow over US-Pakistan ties under Biden’s administration.

Read more: Imagining Pakistan and US as development partners

This is evident by the fact that since Joe Biden assumed the office, there haven’t been high-level talks between the two strategically aligned countries. Apart from few telephonic conversations between US senior officials and Pakistan civil and military leadership on matters of mutual concern over the Afghan conflict, no prominent negotiations have been there which could define the model of the future relationship. Thus, this phone call between Army Chief and the US defence Secretary signifies the reassertion of the bilateral ties on the dynamics of ensuring regional security in South Asia.

Pakistan’s stance on Afghan situation

Continued peace in Afghan is Pakistan’s utmost priority. If any country that has been directly felt or has witnessed a spillover effect of violence and anarchy in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Therefore, amid the peace process, Pakistan’s core interests lie in ensuring a friendly government in Afghanistan in the backdrop of legitimate political settlement endorsed by the US and a guarantee that Afghan soil will be used as a launching pad for cross-border terrorism.

Pakistan has provided unwavering support to the US both during War against terror by becoming the frontline player in 2001 and by fostering the Afghan peace process. The DGISPR, Babur Iftikhar had claimed that “Pakistan is a facilitator, not the guarantor of peace in Afghan”.

Read more: General Bajwa pledges to save Afghanistan from another civil war

He pitches firmly on the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process by highlighting the significance of a legitimate Afghan government which is a prerequisite for maintaining Afghan sovereignty and securing the national interest of both states. As Pakistan is a key stakeholder of Afghanistan’s peace process, it needs to ensure that its national security interests are met foremost.