New York: Pakistan might redeploy troops from the Afghanistan border to the Kashmir frontier amidst fresh Indo-Pak tensions, according to Islamabad's ambassador to the US, a move The New York Times said could complicate the ongoing peace talks between America and the Taliban.
Such a possibility, coming just as Pakistan's longstanding Kashmir crisis with India has escalated, could add a new element to the peace negotiations, which are said to be in the final stages and would end nearly two decades of American military entanglement in Afghanistan, The Times said on Monday. Pakistan's ambassador, Asad Majeed Khan, emphasised in an interview with The New York Times editorial board that the Kashmir and Afghanistan issues were separate and that he was not attempting to link them.
On the contrary, he said, Pakistan hoped the US-Taliban talks would succeed and that his country was actively supporting them. "We are doing all that we can and will continue," Khan said. "It's not an either-or situation." The Pakistani envoy's comments came as the US is keen to end its 18-year involvement in war-ravaged Afghanistan, where it has spent more than USD 1 trillion. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he wants American troops out from Afghanistan and has sought Pakistan's help.
Khan said that India's moves in Kashmir "could not have come at a worse time for us," because Islamabad has sought to strengthen the military control along the western border with Afghanistan, an area long infiltrated by Taliban militants. President Trump has repeatedly accused Pakistan of not doing enough to rein-in the Taliban and other militant groups operating from its soil. "We have our hands full" on the western border, Khan said, adding, "If the situation escalates on the eastern border, we will have to undertake redeployments."
Right now in Islamabad, he said, "we are not thinking about anything but what is happening on our eastern border." Khan was referring to the fresh Indo-Pak tensions after India recently revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and decided that the state be bifurcated into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Reacting to India's decision, Pakistan expelled the Indian High Commissioner, after deciding to downgrade the diplomatic ties with New Delhi.
India has said that time has come for Pakistan to accept the new reality and stop interfering in its internal affairs. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Pakistan is "nervous" following India's decisions on Kashmir and asserted that Islamabad thinks it will not be able to mislead people if there is development in the region. The Pakistani ambassador also said that there has been little communication between the two countries over the past week, and the crisis "unfortunately, I suspect, is going to get worse." He declined to specify what such a worsening would look like, the report said.
"We are two big countries, with very large militaries, with nuclear capability and a history of conflict, so I would not like to burden your imagination on that one," the envoy said. "But obviously if things get worse, things get worse," he added. President Trump last month hosted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House and both leaders agreed to find a way to end the strife in Afghanistan and help the US to withdraw its troops from the country.
Taliban and US negotiators on Monday said they have wrapped up their latest round of talks, reportedly facilitated by Pakistan, for a deal that could allow America to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan. The two sides have been negotiating in Doha, the capital of Qatar, over the past year for a pact that would see the US begin to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Afghanistan.