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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office said on Friday that the relationship between Pakistan and the United States is progressing in a "healthy" manner and the two sides are focusing on building a "stand-alone and comprehensive partnership" for the mutual benefit of the people of both the countries.

Speaking at his weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad referred to the recent visit by the US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, saying that there were wide ranging discussions that touched upon various areas of bilateral cooperation.

"Beyond Afghanistan our relationship is progressing in a healthy manner. We are focusing on building a stand-alone and comprehensive partnership," he said, adding that Pakistan is looking forward for a balanced and broad-based relationship with the US to be beneficial for the people of both the countries.

He pointed out that Pakistan and the US have a long and rich history of mutually-beneficial relationship and partnership. During the Deputy Secretary of State's recent visit, he added that Pakistan underscored the importance of long-standing relationship between the two countries, adding that it was agreed to continue close cooperation and coordination on situation in Afghanistan, security, counterterrorism, trade and investment, climate change, economic cooperation, and regional connectivity.

Referring to the claims made by Indian Foreign Secretary Vardhan Shringla that US vice president Kamala Harris had referred to Pakistan's alleged role in terrorism during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with her in the US, the spokesperson said that it was revealed that the US vice president had never stated what the Indian foreign secretary had attributed to her.

"We checked on the remarks of Indian foreign secretary and we inquired from the US side which conveyed to us that there were no such comments made by the vice president," the spokesperson added.

On the situation in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan noted the recent international engagements with Afghanistan as positive steps, including the Doha talks of Taliban delegation with the US and European Union representatives. He said that it is incumbent upon the international community to continue engaging with the Afghan government.

He said that Pakistan has repeatedly underlined its commitment to a peaceful, stable, and sovereign Afghanistan that is also in the best interest of the region and the world as a whole. He said that peace in Afghanistan is also critical for reaping the dividends of regional connectivity that is in line with Pakistan's renewed focus on geo-economics and economic security.

He said that continued and constructive engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is crucial for addressing the immediate humanitarian needs, ensuring economic stability, and durable peace. "On its part, Pakistan stands with the people of Afghanistan. We are continuing our humanitarian assistance," he said, adding that over 900 Afghan students enrolled in Pakistan are being facilitated to travel to Pakistan to resume their studies.

About Pakistan Pavilion in Dubai Expo 2020, he said that the overwhelming response to the Pakistan Pavilion was a wonderful projection of soft image and rich cultural heritage of Pakistan. He said that President Arif Alvi visited the UAE to inaugurate the Pakistan Pavilion, who also met Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, attended the launch event of Roshan ApnaGhar in the UAE, an investment conference organised by Pakistan Special Technology Zones Authority, besides interacting with media and the Pakistani community.

He said that the visit was instrumental in refreshing leadership-level contacts with the UAE. Promotion of trade and investment, and focus on tourism and technology were among major goals of the visit, he added.

About the visit of the high-level Iranian military delegation to the country, he said that Pakistan-Iran have "excellent" relations, adding that Pakistan attaches great importance to its ties with the neighbouring Iran. At the same time, he added that Pakistan is also enjoying excellent ties with Saudi Arabia, adding that he does not believe that relations with one country would affect relation with another country.

Referring to the situation in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir as well as the state of Muslims under the BJP government in India, he said that Pakistan welcomes the recent OIC statements demanding accountability for increasing Islamophobia and systematic and targeted violence against Muslims in India.

"It is encouraging that the human rights situation in India and illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir has gained increasing attention of the international community," he said. Alluding to Gujarat massacre and Delhi riots as well as recent attacks on Muslims in Assam, he stressed the need for a continued international scrutiny of Indian government attitude towards the minorities.

Condemning the recent irresponsible and provocative statement of the Indian home minister, he asked India to stop peddling falsehood and smear campaign against Pakistan. "India would be well advised to stop peddling falsehood, and change its behaviour that could otherwise further undermine regional peace and security," he added.

He said Pakistan has repeatedly drawn the attention of the international community to India's sinister designs of staging false flag operations to implicate Pakistan and Kashmiris. He reiterated that Pakistan is a peace-loving country; however, it will spare no effort in resolutely thwarting any aggressive Indian designs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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