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US willing to provide Pakistan with funds to enhance border security, prevent attacks from Afghanistan: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto

“Two senior senators — Bob Menendez from New Jersey and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina — told me that they were provided “funding in the 2023 budget to help us with border security,” said Bhutto.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that the United States is willing to provide funds to Islamabad to enhance border security for preventing cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, according to a media report on Sunday.

Bhutto, who was in Washington from December 14 to 21 where he met various top policymakers and chaired the Ministerial Conference of the G-77 and China, the largest negotiating bloc of developing countries within the UN system, said he held talks with senior US senators over the border security fund to be given in 2023, Dawn newspaper reported.

“Two senior senators — Bob Menendez from New Jersey and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina — told me that they were provided “funding in the 2023 budget to help us with border security,” Bhutto told reporters while responding to queries.

Senator Menendez chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations while Senator Graham, a senior Republican, heads the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Bhutto said, while emphasising the strong standing of the two lawmakers.

During a news briefing in Washington on December 19, US State Department’s Spokesperson Ned Price noted that Afghanistan-based terrorist groups like the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan have recently increased attacks on Pakistani targets and offered help to Islamabad to deal with the “increasingly dangerous threat”.

“We have partnered with our Pakistani friends to help them take on this challenge. We stand ready to assist, whether with this unfolding situation or more broadly,” Price said.

But Bhutto’s response to Dawn made it clear that while the US wanted good relations between the two South Asian neighbours, it appears keener to cooperate with Islamabad in combating terrorist attacks from Afghanistan.

This also reflects in the omnibus bill that Congress passed on Friday, setting aside USD 200 million for promoting gender equality in Pakistan and also emphasising the need to combat terrorism.

The bill doesn’t mention a specific amount for combating terrorism, but it does say that funds appropriated under the heading “Foreign Military Financing Programme” can be “made available only to support counterterrorism and counter insurgency capabilities in Pakistan.” It also noted the funds appropriated for “International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement” shall be made available for border security programme in Pakistan.” Commenting on the US offers, former ambassador Touqir Hussain, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, told Dawn that defeating terrorism was a shared goal of both countries.

“So, the US cannot only ask for Pakistan’s help without offering its own help. It is a shared challenge which neither can address alone,” he said.

Hussain noted that the public statement of support for Pakistan was “obviously a part of the ongoing US efforts to rehabilitate its image in the country.”

(PTI)

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