US assures Pakistan of “no boots on ground”

ISLAMABAD: The United States on Wednesday assured Pakistan of “no boots on the ground” and said it fully respects Pakistan’s sovereignty.An official source privy to the meeting between Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and US Vice President Joe Biden here at the PM house said the United States also acknowledged as “legitimate” Pakistan’s apprehensions about foreign intervention through Afghanistan.The meeting that comes as the situation in Afghanistan enters a defining phase, provided an opportunity to both sides to exchange views on bilateral and regional issues.Biden who arrived here on a day-long visit, after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, also met President Asif Ali Zardari and the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss the Afghan strategy and eventual pullout of US forces.

The two sides deliberated at length on the need for jointly charting a course of action to bring peace and stability to the insurgency torn Afghanistan and the region.The official terming the meeting as “extremely useful high-level consultation” said both the sides discussed how to proceed forward on matters related to Afghanistan.The objective was to have a clear understanding of what the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan want, and how can they proceed towards achieving greater regional peace.It was agreed that strategic alignment was needed between Islamabad, Kabul and Washington to reach a pragmatic solution as the first deadline of transition to Afghan-led security in July 2011 approaches.According to the official source the United States was interested in finding out “Pakistan’s bottom line” and its “intentions” regarding Afghanistan.Gilani informed Biden about his recent meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and said Pakistan would continue to pursue its policy of non-intervention and of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, while also ensuring that the unity of its neighbour was not compromised.Pakistan clearly stated that it hopes “there will be no new great game” pertaining to Afghanistan and stated that it does not expect any country to indulge in any proxy war or measures that have an impact on sovereignty of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

It also rejected the US assertion that certain elements were operating from areas along the Pak-Afghan border and stated that in fact the opposite was true as weapons and financial support were coming into the country; adversely impacting the security situation.Pakistan urged the United States to look for a pragmatic solution instead of trading charges.Vice President Biden also sought Pakistan’s views on the US-Afghanistan ties. Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan desires normal state to state relations and urged that stability and societal equilibrium be restored.“No formula from abroad can resolve the Afghan issue,” he said and reiterated that Pakistan wants Afghans to be masters of their destiny. He said Pakistan was willing to facilitate the process of peace in Afghanistan.Pakistan also desired that the Afghan refugees return home in a dignified manner and that there was peace and tranquility along the borders.According to the official both sides also discussed whether the Taliban be given a future role, if they disassociate themselves from al-Qaeda and will they be acceptable.Pakistan said it was willing for the capacity building of the Afghan police and security forces for better counter terrorism duties.Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan and the United States have been on the same side, at all defining periods of history.Gilani said Pakistan looks forward with confidence to a robust, enduring and mutually beneficial partnership with the United States.The official source said the meeting was part of policy consultations between the two countries to attain shared goals.The two sides also agreed on a calendar of extensive engagements during 2011 – APP