Thomas R Nides, US Deputy Secretary of State for Resources and Management, on Monday said nothing ‘truly’ important could happen without Pakistan’s efforts.
Nides’ statement comes on the heels of visits by Senator John Kerry, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Marc Grossman, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. All these visits are part of concentrated efforts being made by Pakistan and the United States to put their shaky relationship back on track, with Washington saying on Monday that the relationship was ‘critically important’ and was now heading in the ‘right direction.’
The US says both countries have a broad, challenging and complex relationship but one thing should be clear: the people of both countries benefit when we work together towards a common goal.
“Our relationship is critically important. It benefits the people of both countries in very concrete ways, and the recent high profile series of meetings show its importance. Still, all of us have a great deal of work ahead to sustain this momentum,” said Nides after his meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh.
“US relations with Pakistan are critically important for peace in the region as well as imperative for US national security. There is a dire need to work together to achieve the benefits of our bilateral strategic relations,” he added.
Pakistan asked Nides to convey to Washington that the bedeviled Strategic Dialogue be resumed and the plenary session of the next round be scheduled at the earliest. The dialogue has been postponed on several occasions and in this regard Prime Minister Gilani pointed out: “Pakistan desires to sustain the trajectory of its relationship only in the upward direction and is strongly committed to the fight against militancy and terrorism”.
Pakistan has also asked that Kerry-Lugar Bill assistance be fast-tracked and the US provide greater market access for Pakistani products by commencing negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement and the provision of generalised system of preferences for trade facilities. Prime Minister Gilani, according to his secretariat, identified the development of the energy sector as the most immediate requirement of Pakistan and called on the US to channel its economic assistance to high visibility power projects in Pakistan, which would help build its image as well. The US is renovating the Tarbela Dam, which will expand electricity generation and help address the energy crisis.
Gilani stressed that the future joint strategy for peace and stability in the region should ensure political and economic stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Core Group of Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, hence has a pivotal role in taking this process forward, he added.
The prime minister emphasised that military action alone could not be the solution to the present problems; reconciliation and dialogue had to be resorted to and the international community and the US in particular had to focus on socio-economic development in the militancy-affected areas and provide political space to the democratic government of Pakistan.
President Zardari too emphasised the government’s preference for trade rather than aid and said enhanced trade and investment ties between the two countries would promote economic activities and help address the issues of poverty and unemployment in underdeveloped and militancy-affected areas.
INP adds: Pakistan and the United States have agreed to work jointly for the attainment of their common objectives and cooperation in the war on terror. The United States has also assured Pakistan it will provide assistance for increasing power generation capacity of the Tarbela Dam project.
An agreement to this effect was reached in talks between the visiting US deputy secretary of state, and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar at the Foreign Office here on Monday.
Talking to the media, Hina Rabbani Khar said the two sides discussed the next phase of the Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue and increased cooperation in economic and trade fields. Thomas R Nides described the talks as productive. He assured that the US would provide assistance for power stations at Tarbela Dam and said both countries would have to work jointly for a democratic and prosperous Pakistan.