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US aid suspension not a ‘life or death situation’ for Pakistan: naval chief

WASHINGTON: Emphasizing on maintaining good relations with the United States, Pakistan Navy Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi has, however, said that security assistance is not the primary consideration for Pakistan.

“We want good relations with or without security assistance. We have enough resources in Pakistan. We can work without US assistance,” the naval chief said while speaking to the media in Washington.

The naval chief, who is in United States to attend an international symposium, said during the media interaction: “Though the decision by US to suspend security assistance to Pakistan was not a favourable one, it was not a life or death situation.”

Abbasi went on to say that India’s sea-based nuclear weapon initiative had compelled Pakistan to take steps for maintaining strategic balance in the region.

US President Donald Trump threatens to cut all aid to Pakistan

To a question, the naval chief dismissed a journalist’s implication that Pakistan had developed the Babur-III missiles with China’s assistance.

“It’s an indigenous programme. I will leave at that,” he said. Abbasi also rejected the myth that Pakistan was seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan is a separate, sovereign country and we respect it as that. Whatever strategic depth we have is our own,” he said.

Replying to a question, he also welcomed US-Taliban talks in Qatar. “This is a good beginning that the US is engaged with the Taliban.”

He said the best hope for peace in Afghanistan was the quadrilateral talks that Pakistan had arranged in Murree in 2016.

On Sep 13, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the military aid suspension to Pakistan was not taken lightly by the Trump administration.

In his address to a Washington think-tank— the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, Bolton said the war against terrorism was a matter of extraordinary importance to America.

Bolton was quoted as saying by the Financial Express that the US wanted Pakistan to cooperate fully in the war against terrorism. “It was before my time, but the Trump administration did not take the decision to cancel a substantial part of the military aid package to Pakistan lightly,” he said.

In August this year, the US Congress passed a $716.3 billion defense authorization bill, significantly slashing the security aid to Pakistan to $150 million per year. The security-related aid have been around $750 million to $1 billion until now.

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