WASHINGTON: US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel next month to Pakistan and India, who have clashed on the way forward in Afghanistan, the State Department announced on Monday.
Sherman, after CIA chief Bill Burns, will be one of the first high-level officials under President Joe Biden to visit Pakistan.
Sherman will meet senior officials in Islamabad on October 7-8 after an earlier visit to New Delhi and Mumbai on October 6-7, when she will meet officials and civil society leaders and address the US-India Business Council’s annual “ideas summit”, the State Department said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an opinion piece published on Monday in The Washington Post, called Pakistan a “convenient scapegoat”.
“In Afghanistan, the lack of legitimacy for an outsider’s protracted war was compounded by a corrupt and inept Afghan government, seen as a puppet regime without credibility, especially by rural Afghans,” he wrote, elaborating on themes in his address on Friday to the UN General Assembly.
He urged the world to engage the Taliban government “to ensure peace and stability”.
Biden, who like his predecessors has called for strong relations with India, has yet to speak to Prime Minister Imran, although Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on the sidelines of UN meetings last week and thanked Islamabad for help in evacuating Americans from Afghanistan.
During the meeting, Qureshi said that close engagement between Pakistan and the United States had always been mutually beneficial and a factor for stability in South Asia. He reiterated Pakistan’s desire for a balanced relationship with the US that was anchored in trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.
The foreign minister also reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitating efforts for an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan, he said, also believed that “only a stable and broad-based government in Afghanistan, which reflects its diversity and preserves the gains made by the country since 2001, would be able to ensure that Afghan territory is never exploited by transnational terrorist groups ever again”.