Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif: U.S. has no evidence for accusing Pakistan, Russia of arms supplies to Taliban in Afghanistan
Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has given an interview to Interfax correspondent Veronika Vishnyakova in which he speaks about his recent talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Pakistan-Russian interaction on Afghanistan, as well as his expectations fr om upcoming entry of Pakistan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).Question: You have already had a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. What issues were addressed at the meeting?
Anwser: The host of issues was discussed between us, but mainly it was fight against terrorism, cooperation between the Russian Federation and Pakistan to fight terrorism, and military cooperation between our two countries. In the last three or four years this cooperation has increased manifold. We are staying committed to any initiative that is being taken in our region to return this region to peace and tranquility, and we support the initiatives taken by the Russian Federation and taking lead in our region to bring back peace to Afghanistan, and fight terrorism, fight drug trafficking. So, these are issues that are actually descended to our two countries, our region. We [reiterate] that Pakistan will extend the utmost support and cooperation to these efforts. I thanked the defense minister for the support of the Russian Federation of our membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Q.: Could you please tell more about cooperation between Russia and Pakistan on Afghanistan?
A.: We have had three different meetings during the last several months since December. So, that effort is gathering pace, it is accelerating. The level of that contact has also been increased. More countries are now involved in this region, Pakistan, states of the Central Asia, India, Afghanistan, and Iran. So, a very comprehensive effort has been taking place since December to accelerate our efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan and to coordinate between the regional players to fight terrorism and to bring back normal situation in Afghanistan.
Q.: Is there intelligence data exchange on Afghansitan?
A.: We have cooperation on the exchange of information, the exchange of intelligence about terrorism and drug trafficking.
Q.: What is your assessment of recent missile attack of the United States on Syria?
A.: We condemn whatever is happening in Syria, especially the border intervention which aggravates and deteriorates the situation in Syria. I think the right remains with the people of Syria to determine what they want to act. In this regard the regime change and foreign intervention is a non-desirable thing.
Q.: And what is your evaluation of the policy of the new U.S. administration in Afghanistan? Do you think that Pakistan could work together with the United States on Afghansitan?
A.: We are ready to work for peace in Afghansitan whatever it takes, but the presence of the United States forces and forces of other NATO countries in Afghanistan for the past 13-14 years have not brought any peace to Afghansitan. The situation still remains very volatile in Afghanistan. And during their presence Daesh has become very strong in Afghanistan. It‘s not only Taliban now. ISIS is also there. So today the we started 13 years back. The situation in my opinion is a bit worse than it was 13 years back.
Q.: Could you comment on the last bomb attack on Afghansitan?
A.: It is basically an internal matter for Afghansitan. If this sort of weaponry is being used in their country by the forces which are over there to bring peace to their country. So it is basically a fundamental question for the Afghan government. What sort of weaponry is being used there and what sort of results the use of those weapons are bringing to their country. That is basically an internal issue of Afghanistan. We wish well for Afghanistan, we want that terrorism should finish, because if the terrorism goes from Afghanistan it excurses to Pakistan, because Pakistan cannot imagine returning to peace without peace returning to Afghansitan. So we stand by our  in Afghansitan in this effort, but if they have any problem with this bomb it‘s their internal right.
Q.: The U.S. recently said that Russia has sponsored and provided arms to the Taliban movement. And several months ago they said the same about Pakistan. Could you comment on this?
A.: They have no evidence for both of these accusations. They are just making accusations and nothing else. There is no evidence, or there is no substance, in these accusations. It is actually admittance of their failure. If they cannot do anything in 13 years, how can they do anything in the next one, two or three years?
Could you please tell about military and technical cooperation between Russia and Pakistan? What types of arms does Pakistan want to purchase? Are there any contracts?
We have an ongoing process that has been on for the past four or five years. It is bringing dividends. I do not want to specific about it. I can say that our cooperation has increased manifold.
Q.: So there are no contracts right now?
A.: This is the process that is going on. I do not want to make any specific comment on it.
Q.: This summer Pakistan will become a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. What opportunities for cooperation in counterterrorism and defense spheres can you see?
A.: It is a platform, a regional platform, it is robust platform. We think that with our participation in the leadership of eight important countries in the region. I think it is a forum, it is a platform wh ere we can discuss our regional problems, all sorts of problems – conflicts, terrorism. It provides an effective platform for the resolution of conflicts and fight against terrorism.
Q.: India is also an SCO member. Is Pakistan ready to cooperate with India in this format?
A.: Yes, we have no problem with cooperating with any country, as far as objectives are clear and they are common objectives.
Q.: Are you aware of any visits on both sides, to Russia and Pakistan, in the near future?
A.: The chairman of the State Duma is expected to visit Pakistan this year. There are also some high-level parliamentary visits from Pakistan also this year.