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US, Pakistan to hold ‘structural dialogue’ soon: Ahsan Iqbal

Pakistan and the United States plan to conduct “structured dialogue” very soon, Minister of Interior Ahsan Iqbal said early Friday morning here during a press conference.
“We do not want dollars; we would rather extend an alliance based on mutual respect,” he added, saying Pakistan hopes for a “friendly, respectful” relationship.
Iqbal went on to say it was not acceptable to Pakistan that the US’ security requisites are met but Islamabad’s concerns are ignored.
The US cannot hamper Pakistan’s economic relief, Iqbal added.
“We want recognition of Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terrorism.”
Commenting on South Asia’s strategic issues, the minister mentioned that regional autonomy should be understood and respected. He explained that Pakistan and Afghanistan are closely linked to each other and will continue to be.
Islamabad and Washington, therefore, can together play a pivotal role in Afghanistan and the related peace process.
Further, in response to a question about a hearing that US Senator John Sullivan attended, Iqbal said, “it was acknowledged that Pakistan and its relations with Afghanistan are both a critical part of the peace process in Afghanistan.”
“Without better linkages, it (peace process) will not be successful. For peace in Afghanistan, US-Pak need to be restrengthened.”
Iqbal also highlighted that terrorism is a disease that affects people around the world, which is why the global fraternity must come together to fight it.
“Terrorists are terrorists”, no matter which side of the border they are on, he said, referring to the US’ claim that senior leadership of the Afghan Taliban has taken refuge in Pakistan.
“Share intel on terrorists; we are ready to conduct operations,” he stressed.
CPEC ‘brings great strength’ to Pakistan
Earlier in the day, Iqbal talked to BBC World News’ Barbara Plett about Pakistan’s oscillating relationships with the US and China, especially in the light of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
When asked if better ties with Pakistan’s northside neighbour sweeten the bitter regional issues, the minister said, “I think it does not take the pressure off but it brings great strength to Pakistan’s economy because [it] was not [getting] foreign investment in big scale.”
While noting that Pakistan has not received “very heavy military aid in the recent years”, Iqbal said Islamabad “certainly look[s] forward to having a strong partnership with the United States”.
About the US military aid and Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism, he had made the same statement as he would later during the press conference in Washington.
“We have made [a] very big sacrifice for fighting war against terrorism. We do not want any dollars. … We want an understanding and recognition for the sacrifices Pakistan has made.”
‘Dignity’
When Plett brought up the topic of US President Donald Trump New Year’s tweet to Pakistan — wherein he claimed that Pakistan had given America “nothing but lies & deceit” against its financial assistance — Iqbal labelled it as “discourteous”.
“I don’t think that … we go by tweets alone. We make a very measured response; that is why when he made that tweet, we thought it was very discourteous,” he said.
The minister, however, did not that “Pakistan made a very measured response because we still believe that there is an opportunity, there is great value in Pakistan-US cooperation to bring peace in Afghanistan”.
He recalled his meeting with US Secretaries of State and Defence Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis, respectively, saying he had told both diplomats that Pakistan would not compromise on its dignity.
“This is what I told the US Secretary of State and US Secretary of Defence when we had [a] meeting in Islamabad that we are a nation which got independence for our dignity.”
“If you offer people of Pakistan a cup of poison with dignity, they might drink it. But if you offer people of Pakistan cup of honey with under duress and under coercion, they will refuse to drink it.”