WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary James Mattis says that the goal of his Pakistan visit is to find “common ground” and expressed the optimism that the two countries could find ways to work together in the face of mutual enemies.
“My goal is to find common ground. We know we have some common ground,” the Secretary said while talking to reporters Sunday en route to Pakistan on the second leg of his visit after visiting a regional conference in Jordan.
“They have lost hundreds, thousands of their troops killed and wounded by terrorists. They have lost hundreds, thousands of their innocent people murdered and wounded by terrorists, so we know that there is common ground,” the Secretary added.
“There is common ground between Afghanistan and Pakistan, because there are terrorist groups that try to move back and forth, that do move back and forth in order to live in one and attack in the other, that sort of thing.”
The Secretary said that Pakistan’s Army Chief General Bajwa has said that he wants no havens for terrorists anywhere.
When asked if he would prod Pakistani officials to do more on the border, the US Secretary Defense stated that was not the way he deals with issues. “I believe that we work hard on finding the common ground, and then we work together, so that’s the approach I want to take.”
To another question that alluded to problems in ties between the two countries, Secretary Mattis said he wouldn’t characterize everything over the past 16 years as failure.
“There is clearly an abundance of areas where we have to double down,” he said and added that he was optimistic at this point that “because of what our adversaries, our mutual enemies are doing, that we can find ways to work together”.
When asked a follow-up question as what he meant by “double-down”, he said:” I think it’s very clear. As I said, both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pakistan military, the NATO-led militaries of 39 nations have all been in fights here. We’ve got to find a way to work together.
Replying to another question, the Secretary said it was essential in South Asia that we all work tougher to restore the level of stability that allows for the economics to build. “I mean, can you imagine a border between Pakistan and India where economic trade is not ongoing to the benefit of people on both sides of that border. We can not only imagine it; it’s a reality right now.”
“So what we’ve got to do is all work together on this, and there’s a sense of urgency about that. There’s people who are living below the poverty line in both those countries,” he added.