Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz has urged the US to show a greater understanding of Pakistan’s security concerns. The US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue was held on February 29 where US Secretary of State John Kerry had asked Pakistan to consider reducing its nuclear arsenal.
During the discussions, both sides expressed their concerns on pressing issues instead of confining themselves to conventional gestures exchanged at such occasions. “Nuclear safety is of obvious concern to both our countries, and I expect that we will continue to discuss the obligations of being a responsible state with nuclear weapons in the coming year,” Mr Kerry said.
Recalling that the US and Russia once had more than 50,000 atomic warheads, Mr Kerry said, but have now reduced those to 1,500 each and were working on further reductions. “I think it’s important for Pakistan to really process that reality and put that front and centre in its policy. And we look forward to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit next month,” he further said.
However, Pakistan has said that it will not accept any unilateral curb on its nuclear programme. It also said that any reduction should apply to India as well, and the US should also consider Pakistan’s concerns on the growing weapon disparity.
Pakistan, since long, has been accused of selectively targeting some militant groups in the name of waging counter-terrorism offensive, and at the same time turning a blind eye to other militant groups. Mr Kerry once again warned Pakistan bluntly that groups like Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba are trying to undercut Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours, an apparent signal to India. It is a growing international concern that Pakistan is the fertile ground for growing Islamic extremism, and consequently the growing threat to the security of its nuclear arsenal, which is increasing at an alarming speed.
Referring to Pakistan’s position on this issue, Mr Aziz said: “Our engagement on non-proliferation and strategic stability will continue and Pakistan hopes to see greater US understanding of Pakistan’s security concerns and its desire to contribute actively as a mainstream nuclear power.” Focusing on the issue of the contentious sale of F-16 fighter jets, Mr Aziz appreciated the US for endorsing its position that the planes would strengthen its ability to step up counter-terror operations and promote regional stability at the same time.
“We appreciate the public assessment of the US leadership in response to congressmen’s enquiries that Pakistan uses the F-16s effectively against the terrorists in the region,” Mr Aziz said. “The prospective sale of F-16s will strengthen Pakistan’s capabilities to successfully continue these vital operations for our mutual benefit and stability in the region,” he added.
It would be pertinent to note that recently a top US lawmaker had introduced a “joint resolution” in the House of Representatives to disapprove an arms deal with Pakistan that includes the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets.
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