‘Reciprocal’ travel restrictions to be imposed on Pakistan diplomats: US.

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United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon on Tuesday said ‘reciprocal’ travel restrictions will be imposed on Pakistani diplomats in the United States (US).

In an exclusive interview with Voice of America’s Uzbek Service, Shannon said, “Our diplomats are under travel restrictions. They can travel further [than 40 kilometres], but they have to notify the government of Pakistan. It’s very common in diplomacy”.

When contacted, the US embassy declined to comment on the nature of restrictions and said, “We are not prepared to announce anything on this matter.”

What’s important here is that we’ve had some very fruitful conversations with Pakistan about events inside of Afghanistan. It’s my hope that we’re going to be able to build off those in a way that helps this broader reconciliation process,” said the US diplomat when probed further.

Pakistan and Central Asia

The US official, while referring to counter-terrorism and fighting extremism in Pakistan, said the US is not the only partner which cooperates with Islamabad on such issues. “China is a very important partner for Pakistan,” Shannon said and added, “Russia, it’s not as bigger a partner as China is for Pakistan. Russia is historical on the region is conflicted, but we’re very prepared, and we’ll be very happy to have a larger conversation with Russia about this also.”

On the question of Pakistan being mentioned as a ‘source of concern’ and working with the country, Shannon said, “I’m not sure how much we can help that process because this is really something that Pakistanis have to understand.” The under-secretary then said that Pakistan needs to understand the concerns of Central Asian countries.

The top diplomat also said that Pakistan can benefit from playing a ‘meaningful’ role in the Afghan process which will better relations with neighbours and other Asian countries.

Tashkent Conference

Shannon represented the US in the recently held Tashkent conference on the future of Afghanistan. He highlighted the importance of the conference due to its link to the Kabul Peace Process and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to the Taliban for peace talks.

“For us, what was interesting and useful about Tashkent is that it took the purpose of President Ghani and it took a process that began in Kabul, it brought it to Tashkent and then internationalised it,” he added.

The senior US official also said that the conference sent a strong message to the Taliban that the only way out is through negotiations. “Many countries especially Afghanistan’s neighbours have different interests in Afghanistan, but I think all the participants understood the importance of peace in Afghanistan,” he added.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry on Wednesday delivered a talk on ‘Pakistan’s Place in the World’ at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

A series of tweets from Pakistan Embassy covered the talk. Chaudhry said relations with the US are very important for Pakistan and this realisation is prevalent across all segments of Pakistani polity. He further added that Pakistan, for its part, has fared well in challenging and changing times.

“The country has defeated terrorism, the economy is picking up and democratic process is on track despite challenges.”