WASHINGTON - A senior Pentagon official has called for maintaining close defence cooperation with Pakistan in the years ahead as part of efforts to promote regional stability. 

Kelly Magsamen, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said in her opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the security cooperation with Pakistan over the years has helped the fight against al Qaeda and other militant groups.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins also appeared in the same hearing on the US policy in Afghanistan and the Regional Implications of the 2014 Transition. The hearing was presided by Chairman of the panel Senator Robert Menendez, a democrat. In her statement, Ms. Magsamen said that in addition to US bilateral security cooperation efforts, the United States would continue to play a mediation role in the region.  “Cross-border militant attacks remain a challenge to maintaining positive relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan addition to attacks by Pakistan-based militants in Afghanistan, we are growing more concerned about Afghanistan-based militants launching attacks in Pakistan,” she said.

Pakistan, she noted, has attempted in recent instances to de-escalate border clashes using the procedures put in place by Islamabad and Kabul, with facilitation from ISAF and the Office of Defence Representative – Pakistan.

An improved relationship between Pakistan and India is essential to regional stability, she said.

“The recent engagement between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is cause for cautious optimism.”

Recognising the important role the United States has to play in terms of regional engagement, the US holds trilateral dialogues with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and with Afghanistan and India.

These meetings are held in addition to formal and informal bilateral engagements with each of these countries on issues relating to regional security, she added.

Meanwhile, a UN spokesman said that the world body’s health agencies are supporting Pakistan’s humanitarian efforts to help thousands of people who have left North Waziristan where Pakistani Armed Forces have launched an anti-terrorist operation.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the regular boon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York that access remained the “greatest challenge” in the areas of displacement and urged the authorities to improve the humanitarian space.