New approach in ties with US

ajtr

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New approach in ties with US

ISLAMABAD: In a qualitative difference in Pakistan’s approach to the United States, Islamabad will, at the renewed Strategic Dialogue with Washington, seek ‘tangible deliverances’ particularly on its strategic concerns and wouldn’t settle for short-term relief measures.
The fourth round of the Strategic Dialogue on March 24, being dubbed by Pakistan’s foreign policy gurus as the ‘renewed process’, is expected to be one of the most intense diplomatic engagements the two countries had in the recent past.

Major politico-security stakeholders, including several federal ministers, army chief, director-general of ISI, and a number of federal secretaries will leave for Washington on Saturday to attend the meeting. The US representation at the dialogue, upgraded to ministerial level, will be equally strong. The team will be headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Other members will be National Security Adviser James Jones, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and a number of other top officials of the Obama administration.

The level of participation by both sides, analysts believe, is indicative of the desire of Islamabad and Washington to give a new meaning to their bilateral relations hitherto marred by trust deficit.

“This round is going to determine the future of Pakistan’s relations with the United States,” a top official told Dawn, after attending one of the preparatory sessions aimed at developing a unified perspective among the country’s state organs for this engagement with Washington.

Pakistan is often referred to by Washington as a ‘key regional player’ and a ‘major non-Nato ally’ with whom it eyed a ‘long-term engagement’, but it is probably the first time that Islamabad’s strategists are feeling that the time has come to tell Washington to move on from symbolism and concretely address Pakistan’s core security concerns and its immediate economic needs.

Among the issues on which Islamabad desires solid assurances are protection of its legitimate interests in Afghanistan; normalisation of relations with India, including resolution of the Kashmir issue; end to instability in Balochistan; accepting Pakistan as a declared nuclear weapons state and thereby quashing all rumours that the US was secretly working to defang the country.

On Pakistan’s wish-list is also a strong desire for civilian nuclear cooperation on the pattern of India-US deal. Although Pakistan primarily wants nuclear cooperation to meet its growing energy needs, the issue has a political connotation also because Islamabad doesn’t want to see itself discriminated against and at a disadvantage vis-à-vis India.

Strong emphasis from the Pakistani side, senior diplomats at the Foreign Office say, is also expected on market access for its products to US and economic assistance at the dialogue, which now includes new strands like strategic stability, security, public diplomacy and health.

The Pakistani contingent will specifically tell the American interlocutors that the economic assistance needed to be fast tracked to arrest the economic decline believed to have been worsened because of the war on terror. The disbursement of Coalition Support Fund, a mechanism for repaying expenses incurred by Pakistan for supporting US counter-terrorism operations, has been sluggish and so has been the release of funds under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act. Only $400 million has so far been released under the aid legislation enacted last year.

Pakistan this year slashed its public sector development programme by over Rs150 billion because of shortage of funds.

Quite pragmatically, Pakistani policymakers are not deluding themselves into believing that their ties with the US will transform overnight and they will gain major concessions. But, they want the process to start.

“The extent to which the US is ready to accommodate our concerns and constraints will be a test of this engagement,” a senior army officer engaged in preparations for the visit remarked.

Senior officials say they will try to carefully use their leverages, which are largely Afghanistan related, to make the most of the dialogue.
 

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US is Pakistan’s partner, not patron: Hillary

NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on Friday that several top American officials would visit Pakistan to assess its needs and said ‘we come as a partner, not a patron’.

Addressing a large gathering held to launch the American-Pakistan Foundation (APF), an organisation of Pakistani-Americans and friends of Pakistan, Mrs Clinton said: ‘President Obama and our administration have worked hard to change the perception of our purpose in Pakistan, both with words and with deeds. That is a key goal of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and it is a personal priority for President Obama and me.’

She told the gathering that several top US officials would be visiting Pakistan to assess the needs of the country and she received applause when she said ‘we want to be guided by a paramount principle: full respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty. We come as a partner not a patron.’

Pakistan, she said, ‘is a nation close to my heart. As first lady, senator (and) secretary of state, I have made five visits to Pakistan. I have a number of my close staff who have Pakistani heritage. I was honoured as senator of this great state to represent the largest community of Pakistani Americans in the United States.

‘And I have learned first-hand what a special country Pakistan is — a place rich with history and culture, blessed with natural beauty, and home to people of unforgettable warmth and strength’.

She said the US had taken major steps recently to support Pakistan as it sought to strengthen democratic institutions.
 

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Ties with Pakistan go far beyond security, says US

WASHINGTON: The partnership between the United States and Pakistan “goes far beyond security”, said the US State Department while announcing the first ministerial level strategic dialogue between the two countries.
“High-level officials from both governments will come to the table to discuss issues of common concern and shared responsibility,” the State Department said.

“Topics for discussion will include economic development, water and energy, education, communications and public diplomacy, agriculture, and security.”

The brief announcement noted that US President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton had “repeatedly stressed the breadth and depth of the US-Pakistan relationship, a partnership that goes far beyond security.”

The Strategic Dialogue “represents the shared commitment of both nations to strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust”.

The announcement covers almost all the issues the two sides are expected to discuss without going into details about any.

The emphasis on the partnership going “beyond security” apparently aims at dispelling the impression that America’s main concern in these talks will be the security situation in the Pak-Afghan region.

But the expected participation of defence chiefs, security advisers, spy masters and senior generals in these talks continues to strengthen the impression that the talks indeed will focus on security issues.

Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the first army chief to participate in the strategic dialogue, recently chaired a meeting of key federal secretaries in Islamabad to streamline a joint strategy for the talks.

Also for the first time, the Americans are expected to include their defence secretary, Robert Gates, and national security adviser, Gen James Jones, in the talks.

ISI chief Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and the CIA boss Leon Panetta will also participate.

And the security aspect of the dialogue also figured prominently in the talks between Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and American officials on Wednesday when she met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James Jones and other senior officials.

Later, the Indian Embassy in Washington revealed that Mrs Rao apprised her interlocutors of her recent talks with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir in New Delhi. They also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, the embassy said.

The two sides also held preparatory talks on the upcoming first round of the newly-launched US-India strategic dialogue. Washington has already sent Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake to New Delhi to prepare for the talks.

Commenting on these developments, the US media noted that Washington’s interests in engaging the Taliban has reignited regional rivalry and now India, Pakistan and Iran are all trying to protect their interests in Afghanistan.

While Pakistan and Iran are talking to various ethnic and religious groups to increase their influence before the Americans engage the Taliban, India, Iran and Russia are opposing Islamabad’s moves to gain greater leverage in the region, with or without Washington’s support.
 

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