Wells arriving on three-day visit next week

WASHINGTON: The chief US diplomat for South and Central Asia is coming to Islamabad next week on a three-day visit to discuss bilateral and regional issues with Pakistani officials, the State Department anno­unced on Friday.


Principal Deputy Assis­tant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells will also travel to India and Sri Lanka during her Jan 13-22 trip to South Asia. In Islamabad from Jan 19-22, Ms Wells will meet “senior government officials and members of civil society to discuss issues of bilateral and regional concern”.

Recently, the United States and Pakistan have increased bilateral contacts as their relations improve after a long freeze. Last week, Washington restored training and education facilities for Pakistani officers at US military institutions. Pakistan was one of the countries US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called last week after a US airstrike killed a key Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad last week. He spoke to Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. On Wednesday, Defence Secretary Mark Esper also telephoned Gen Bajwa. Official statements issued after the two calls indicated that the conversations focused on the prevailing situation in the Middle East following Gen Soleimani’s assassination and Tehran’s retaliation through bombing of US military bases in Iraq. Pakistan explained to the two US officials that Islamabad would prefer the situation to de-escalate as another war in the region would hurt all. Later, Islamabad also announced plans to send Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to the Middle East and the United States as part of its efforts to de-escalate the situation. The State Department said that from Jan 13-14, Ms Wells will be in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to discuss a range of shared interests in a free and open Indo-Pacific region that fosters prosperity, democracy, justice and human rights. Ms Wells will then travel to New Delhi from Jan 15-18, to attend the Raisina Dialogue. She will also meet senior government officials to advance the US-India strategic global partnership and will discuss topics of mutual interests with members of the business community and civil society, the State Department said.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2020