- Ambassador William Todd stated in his Senate confirmation hearing that Pakistan is an “essential partner” in the region, adding that the United States’ close ties with India should not come at the expense of their relationship with Pakistan.
WASHINGTON: On Tuesday, William Todd - the Trump Administration’s nominated ambassador to Islamabad - stated in his Senate confirmation hearing that Pakistan is an “essential partner” in the region, and suggested that the United States’ close ties with India should not come at the expense of their relationship with Pakistan.
On the tumultuous relations between India and Pakistan, he mentioned that “our hope is that both countries will take the necessary steps to reduce tensions, and as President Trump has offered, we are prepared to facilitate dialogue if both sides request it”, reflective of the Trump Administration’s approach to mediate between the two countries, especially in the aftermath of the Balakot Attacks in February 2019.
While Ambassador Todd acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror, noting that the country has publicly committed to ensure that its territory is not exploited as a safe-haven for terrorists, he added that “actions against militants must continue” and that “to truly reduce regional tensions, and to rebuild a strong relationship with Washington, Islamabad must take sustained and irreversible action against terrorism”.
Ambassador Todd reiterated to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that his highest priority would be to place extreme pressure on militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba.
While a great deal of focus was placed on Pakistan’s commitment to eliminating terrorism, the Ambassador also mentioned that he would actively engage Pakistan on matters of “strategic stability and non-proliferation”, adding that he would be “carrying a clear message on the threat that nuclear weapons pose to the United States, the region, and our allies - Pakistan needs to demonstrate that it is prepared to live up to international commitments on weapons of mass destruction”.
In terms of Pakistan’s role in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Ambassador said that despite the fact that there have been differences between the United States and Pakistan on strategic matters, “Pakistan is an essential regional partner, and this is an opportune moment in our relationship to work together on shared goals”. On the country’s role in the Afghan Peace Process, he added that “peace in Afghanistan is in both our countries’ best interests, and effective U.S-Pakistani cooperation is essential to achieve that objective”, as Pakistan “played a critical role in creating the conditions that brought Afghan leaders and the Taliban to the historic peace negotiations.
However, the Ambassador stated that Pakistan has an important part to play in supporting efforts towards a negotiated political settlement, which would end nearly four decades of conflict, and in “forging a new and better role in the region”.
In terms of improved bilateral trade and investment with Pakistan, Ambassador Todd highlighted that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could seriously exacerbate issues of intergenerational poverty, and the state of the country’s public healthcare system, making it essential that mutual cooperation on economic issues is sustained.
Finally, the envoy noted that issues pertaining to freedom of expression and human rights are an important part of his agenda, adding that “increasing restrictions on civil society, the growing harassment and disappearance of journalists without accountability, undermines the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, expression, and association.
The full transcript of Ambassador William E. Todd’s confirmation hearing can be found here.