Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday to discuss “issues of mutual interest, regional security, current situation in Afghanistan and measures to enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields”, the military’s media wing said in a press release.
“Both sides agreed to continue exploring avenues for collaboration in defence, training and counter terrorism domains,” the statement by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
“COAS reiterated that Pakistan remains committed to make all-out efforts to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan and supports an all-inclusive Afghan government.”
“Both reiterated the desire to further enhance bilateral relations, including efforts for peace and security in the region and fight against Covid-19.”
“The visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan’s role in Afghan situation, including successful evacuation operations, regional stability and pledged to play their role for further improvement in diplomatic cooperation with Pakistan at all levels,” it added.
Raab arrived in Pakistan on Thursday and was welcomed by foreign ministry and British High Commission officials after he landed at Nur Khan Airbase.
In a press conference on Friday at the Foreign Office alongside Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Raab said: “We do not recognise the Taliban as a government, but we do see the importance of engaging and having direct line of communication with them.”
Raab and Qureshi had also reviewed the state of bilateral relations during their meeting.
“In the context of bilateral relations, it was agreed that the strong Pakistan-UK bilateral relations must be further expanded, especially in the economic and trade spheres,” the FO said in a statement, adding that the two sides reaffirmed the resolve to upgrade the relationship from the current Enhanced Strategic Dialogue to the next level.
Qureshi demanded a reconsideration of the British government’s decision to keep Pakistan on the ‘Red List’ for travel that required people coming from there to hotel quarantine.
At the meeting, he also highlighted the progress made by Pakistan in the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan and expressed the hope that no attempt would be allowed to politicise the process.
“The basis for the UK-Pakistan relationship is very strong — and the UK has the desire to take it to the next level. We also have a very clear and shared interest in the future of Afghanistan. We will judge the Taliban by their actions, not their words,” Raab declared.
Calls on premier
Later on Friday, Raab called on Prime Minister Imran Khan.
At the meeting, the prime minister underscored the need for stabilising the security situation in Afghanistan, taking steps to consolidate peace, and precluding any mass exodus. Preventing humanitarian crisis and stabilising the economy were the urgent needs, he said.
He urged the international community to stand in solidarity with the Afghan people, undertake positive engagement, and create incentives for ensuring a peaceful, stable and inclusive polity.