Islamabad - A US senatorial delegation yesterday visited Islamabad and met with top government and military officials for improving mutual understanding and strengthening the bilateral relationship to jointly meet the geopolitical and security challenges.

Headed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator John McCain, the US team called on Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa - after a meeting with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.

The delegation acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices in war against terrorism, called its role in Afghan peace essential and assured that the US policy on Kashmir remains unchanged.

The delegation included Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator David Perdue and senior members of staff. US Charge d' Affairs to Pakistan Mr Jonathan also accompanied the delegation.

The visit of the delegation, comprising highly prominent senators from both Democratic and Republican parties, comes after a long chill in the bilateral relationship – which is primarily defined by the strategic and military cooperation.

The bilateral estrangement started while President Obama was still in office and became severe with the coming of President Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump last month held a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in a subsequent joint statement demanded Pakistan not to let the terrorists use its soil against other countries, in a complete accession to New Delhi’s line.

At the military headquarters, the delegation was briefed about the security situation in the region, including Afghanistan, and the visitors were briefed how Pakistan has positively contributed towards peace and stability in the region.

The army chief thanked the senators for the visit and their efforts for forging mutual understanding of the geopolitical security situation and the challenges ahead, according to an ISPR statement.

He reiterated that Pakistan has done its best despite constraints and shall continue its efforts for peace and stability. In this regard enduring Pak-US security cooperation is a key factor, General Bajwa said.

Senator McCain appreciated and acknowledged Pak Army's contributions and sacrifices in war on terror. The senator also agreed on importance of Pak-Afghan security cooperation and coordination.

Earlier talking to talking to state television, PTV, Senator John McCain said Pakistan has a significant role for establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan; it was not possible without Pakistan’s help.

He said his country wanted an end to violence in the Indian held Kashmir and there “will be no change in the US policy” in this regard. “Kashmir issue should be resolved in peaceful way through negotiation.”

Earlier in the day, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the US delegation that India was promoting state-sponsored terrorism in held Kashmir and attempting to hoodwink the world by levelling baseless allegation against Pakistan.

The foreign ministry said that Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua also attended the meeting with the five-member US Senate delegation.

Sartaj Aziz told the visiting dignitaries that Pakistan was fighting a historical war against terrorism and had supported all efforts of the US and other countries for promotion of peace across the globe.

He also apprised them about Pakistan’s success in security operations Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasaad. He said that the terrorists’ sanctuaries had been eliminated under the overarching National Action Plan. The dividend of these policies, Aziz stressed, was empirically verifiable.

Senator McCain appreciated the contributions and sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. He said that continued engagement with Pakistan, a close friend and ally of the US, was important.

The US delegation praised the economic turnaround, as manifested by investors interest and confidence in Pakistan, said the foreign ministry statement.

“They agreed with the need for the US and Pakistan to forge closer cooperation in confronting peace and security challenges in the region and beyond,” it added.

Sartaj Aziz raised concern over the gross human rights violations by the Indian forces in Kashmir and the international community’s silence over the reign of terror unleashed by India on unarmed Kashmiris, said a statement released by the foreign ministry.

The adviser stressed that Pakistan firmly believed in the legitimacy of the Kashmir cause and the peaceful struggle of the Kashmiri people to claim the right to self determination promised to them by the international community through the UN Security Council resolutions.

He said that Pakistan remained committed to supporting efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Aziz said the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) process remained a credible and effective vehicle to facilitate reconciliation and restoring peace, stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan.

The adviser said that Pakistan looked forward to constructive engagement with the US on all efforts and initiatives that would lead to a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan was also ready to strengthen and deepen its partnership with the US to counter the new and emerging terrorism threats including the expanding footprint of Daesh in the region.

Last month, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi met and in the subsequent joint statement called upon Islamabad to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot and other cross-border terror attacks in India.

Pakistan later criticised the US-India joint statement saying it was “singularly unhelpful” in achieving the objective of strategic stability and durable peace in the South Asian region.

The US-India statement came at a time when Pakistan is going through a bad phase of ties with India, Afghanistan and Iran. The relation with the US is also shabby.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif however played down the growing ties between the US and India last week and instead asked the diplomats to counter India’s propaganda.

Addressing the US senators, Sartaj Aziz reiterated the importance of regular high level contacts and particularly appreciated senators McCain, Graham and Whitehouse for their continued engagement and regular visits to Pakistan to promote understanding and cooperation between the two countries. 

The adviser underscored the significance of the longstanding cooperation between the two countries and the need to make this partnership diverse and multidimensional.

Pakistan and US strategic partnership, he said, was critical to achieving peace and stability in the region and beyond.

The US delegation praised the economic turnaround, as manifested by investors interest and confidence in Pakistan, said the foreign ministry statement.

“They agreed with the need for the US and Pakistan to forge closer cooperation in confronting peace and security challenges in the region and beyond,” it added.

Sartaj Aziz raised concern over the gross human rights violations by the Indian forces in Kashmir and the international community’s silence over the reign of terror unleashed by India on unarmed Kashmiris, said a statement released by the foreign ministry.

The adviser stressed that Pakistan firmly believed in the legitimacy of the Kashmir cause and the peaceful struggle of the Kashmiri people to claim the right to self determination promised to them by the international community through the UN Security Council resolutions.

He said that Pakistan remained committed to supporting efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Aziz said the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) process remained a credible and effective vehicle to facilitate reconciliation and restoring peace, stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan.

The adviser said that Pakistan looked forward to constructive engagement with the US on all efforts and initiatives that would lead to a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan was also ready to strengthen and deepen its partnership with the US to counter the new and emerging terrorism threats including the expanding footprint of Daesh in the region.

Last month, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi met and in the subsequent joint statement called upon Islamabad to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot and other cross-border terror attacks in India.

Pakistan later criticised the US-India joint statement saying it was “singularly unhelpful” in achieving the objective of strategic stability and durable peace in the South Asian region.

The US-India statement came at a time when Pakistan is going through a bad phase of ties with India, Afghanistan and Iran. The relation with the US is also shabby.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif however played down the growing ties between the US and India last week and instead asked the diplomats to counter India’s propaganda.

Addressing the US senators, Sartaj Aziz reiterated the importance of regular high level contacts and particularly appreciated senators McCain, Graham and Whitehouse for their continued engagement and regular visits to Pakistan to promote understanding and cooperation between the two countries. 

The adviser underscored the significance of the longstanding cooperation between the two countries and the need to make this partnership diverse and multidimensional.

Pakistan and US strategic partnership, he said, was critical to achieving peace and stability in the region and beyond.