Arun Kumar, Washington
The United States has indicated that it could indeed cancel a high-level meeting involving Pakistan here amid a diplomatic row over continued detention of a US official who shot dead two men in Lahore. “We want to have a productive meeting. If there’s a reason why we don’t think the meeting will be productive we’re prepared to make adjustments,” State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters Wednesday.
“If we do make those decisions, we’ll let you know,” he said while insisting that reports about US suspending all contacts with Pakistan were “not true.” Crowley was responding to a Wall Street Journal report from Islamabad that the US had threatened to cancel the ministerial level trilateral US-Afghanistan-Pakistan meeting scheduled for Feb 23-25 in Washington.
“Planning is continuing for the trilateral meeting at the end of this month. It is currently scheduled to be at the ministerial level. If we make any changes in that, we’ll let you know,” he said.
Crowley also repeated the US demand for the release of Raymond Davis, a US government employee who was arrested on January 27 after shooting two Pakistanis. A third Pakistani was run over and killed by a US consulate vehicle that had come to assist Davis, according to police.
US insists Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity though Pakistanis have apparently questioned his diplomatic status. “The fact is that we did notify Pakistan of this diplomat’s arrival and his status. And we do not believe that there’s any ambiguity about that,” Crowley said.
Crowley also dubbed as ‘not true’ reports that the Obama Administration had suspended all contacts with Pakistan, but his replies clearly indicated that the contacts were currently limited to seeking the release of Davis. “The reports that we have suspended all contacts with the Pakistani government are not true. We continue to have high-level contacts with both in Pakistan and here to be able to express to them the importance that we attach to resolving this issue and this case.” Crowley said.
“And we’ll use every opportunity in our engagement with the Pakistani government to reiterate that position,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pentagon also insisted there has been no ‘significant impact’ on its military to military relationship with Pakistan over the issue. “There has been no significant impact (because of this),” spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters. But he also added that he was not aware if any meeting at the smaller level has been canceled because of this.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)