South Asia strategy an opportunity for Pakistan to engage in counter-terrorism: Jim Mattis

Washington: The recently announced South Asia strategy by President Donald Trump is an opportunity for Pakistan to engage in “counter-terrorism campaign,” US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said, as he praised India’s commitment towards the development of Afghanistan.

The South Asia strategy is “not exclusive of someone”, Mattis said in response to a question.

It is inclusive for all responsible states that want to stop terrorism in its tracks and defend the innocent, he said.

As such, Mattis said, he sees the South Asia strategy announced by Trump in August an opportunity.

“I agree 100 per cent with President Ghani that this South Asia strategy and this renewed commitment is an opportunity for Pakistan to engage in the counter terror campaign,” Mattis told reporters at a joint news conference in Kabul, according to a Pentagon transcript.

In what could come as a disappointment for Pakistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani echoed Mattis, as the latter travelled to Kabul directly from New Delhi, without going to Islamabad.

Pakistan, so far has resisted Trump’s Afghan and South Asia policy.

This is primarily because for the first time, the United States seek to hold Pakistan accountable for its support to terrorist groups and organization.

And much to the inconvenience of Pakistan, Trump’s policy seeks greater developmental role for India in this war-torn country.

“The reaction for the (Pak) government and the public at large was of utter disappointment, though not shocking. It was not unexpected but it was it was unpleasant,” Pak Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told a New York audience this week.

“We don’t see any military rule or any strategic role of India in Afghanistan,” the top Pakistani diplomat said.

So far, Pakistan appears to be resisting from implementing Trump’s Afghan and South Asia Policy.

Mattis told reporters in Kabul that the United States “will watch” Islamabad’s choices.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg agreed with both Mattis and Ghani saying that this is a regional approach, which includes both Pakistan and India.

Both of them have to be included in a mutual approach.

He urged all countries in the region to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Mattis said India has been “very, very generous” in its development assistance to Afghanistan.

India is committed to doing even more to help the people of Afghanistan, he said.

“Certainly, that cannot be seen as contrary to another nation’s interest to help people who are working their way out of many, many difficult years since the Soviet invasion,” the US defense secretary underscored.