COAS discusses security issues with Blinken

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WASHINGTON: Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Thursday to discuss regional security, defence cooperation and other key issues.

Gen Munir also met acting Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer during his visit to the US Department of State.

“Pakistan is an important partner, and we eng­age with a wide range of interlocutors within the Pakistani government,” said a US State Depart­m­ent spokesperson when asked for comments on Secretary Blinken’s meeting with the Pakistan army chief.

“We look forward to continuing to partner with Pakistan on regional security and defence cooperation,” the spokesperson added.

They discussed “full spectrum of bilateral relations and regional situation”, a diplomatic source told.

The army chief met US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin on Wedne­sday and after the meeting the Pentagon issued a brief statement saying that “the two officials discussed recent regional sec­urity developments and potential areas for bilateral defence cooperation”.

At an earlier briefing, US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked if the United States would conduct drone strikes to suppress the terrorists who were attacking targets inside Pakistan and if this option would be discussed in the army chief’s meetings with US officials.

“I’m not going to comment with respect to his meetings, other than that generally speaking we look forward to partnering with the Pakistani government on regional security and defence cooperation,” he said.

Responding to the question about drone attacks, he said: “We have taken a number of steps to partner with them this year on anti-terrorism activities” but did not say anything specific about the drones.

On Thursday, the Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine noted that the army chief was visiting Washington amidst an unsettled US-Pakistan relationship.

The report also noted that the departure of US forces from Afghanistan in 2021 has left both nations searching for new anchors in their partnership.

Gen Munir, unlike his predecessors, lacks strong ties to the West but emphasises warm officer-to-officer relations, a legacy of US-Pakistan education and training exchanges, the report added.

The report speculated that Gen Munir was seeking friendly relations with Washington motivated by economic concerns, as the United States was Pakistan’s top export destination and a crucial aid source.

According to the report, the army chief’s visit aims to address shared security concerns, particularly the resurgence of militancy in Pakistan while US priorities focused on the diminished Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) threat in Afghanistan, potentially affecting the incentive for collaboration with Pakistan.

Despite tensions over the expulsion of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, the US and Pakistan may find common ground on non-security issues like humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.

The report claimed that Gen Munir’s discussions in Washington could include global conflicts such as Russia’s war in Ukraine and the situation in Gaza. Reports suggesting Pakistan’s arms support to Ukraine may be addressed, alongside Pakistan’s stance on the Palestinian cause, the report added.

The magazine reported that Gen Munir might highlight the army’s stabilising role during political turmoil, a point likely met with cautious reception in Washington.

Gen Munir’s meetings with key US officials “will play a crucial role in shaping the trajectory of these complex bilateral ties,” the report stated.

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