Lahore [Pakistan], Sept.30 : The United States and NATO have jointly clarified that President Donald Trump's new strategy for South Asia includes Pakistan as well, and there is no move to isolate it.
"One reason why we welcome the new U.S. strategy announced by President Trump recently is that it has this regional approach. And this region includes both Pakistan and India," the Dawn quoted NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg as saying.

The NATO chief said that he did not see why including India in this regional approach should create any problems.

"Both those nations have to be included in a mutual approach. We urge all countries in the region to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process," he added.

"I think in the opposite, if India is not included, that would be a big mistake. So, we urge all countries to participate, but as part of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process," he said.

Addressing media after talks with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Stoltenberg, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, "U.S.'s new strategy is an opportunity for Pakistan to fight terrorism. Afghanistan is ready for peace, but the ball is in Pakistan's court."

He said that his government's job is to look towards the future.

Ghani called on insurgents to join the peace process for the success of Afghan-owned peace process.

Mattis said that President Trump's strategy was an opportunity for Pakistan to engage in the counter-terror campaign.

"The South Asia strategy is not exclusive of someone. It is inclusive for all responsible states that want to stop terrorism in its tracks and defend the innocent," he said.

Mattis said that the United States would be watching the choices Pakistan makes now.

"So far as Pakistan, we will watch Pakistan's choices. We will engage with Pakistan," he said.

"We will continue to work in a unified way between Nato, the coalition, the Afghan government and the other regional governments in South Asia as we try to set the conditions for a positive set of nations and teamwork against the terrorists, Taliban, IS [the militant Islamic State group] whoever they might be," he added.

Mattis noted that the strategy allows a more holistic approach to solve the region's problems. The United States embracing this strategy "also makes it clear we are not quitting this fight," he added.

"In short, uncertainty has been replaced by certainty," Mattis said.

The secretary stressed that the strategy is conditions-based, not time-based, "because war is principally a matter of will, and we've made clear we have the will to stand together."

(Posted on 30 September 2017, 1675451923 3O235O25O27)