Ambassador Sherry Rehman says Pak-US ties should be mutually cooperative, respectful of sovereignty

WASHINGTON, April 18 : Pakistan wants its relationship with the UnitedStates to be grounded on realistic expectations, mutual respect for sovereignty and appreciation of each other’s legitimte security interests, Islamabad’s envoy in Washington said.

Ambassador Sherry Rehman said Pakistan wants the important relationship to be mutually cooperative.

She was addressing a reception held in honour of a visiting delegation of National Defense University of Pakistan. The event at the Pakistani embassy was attended by senior State Department and Pentagon officials.

“We want this relationship to be grounded in realistic expectations, respect for each other’s sovereignty, appreciation of each other’s legitimate security interests and understanding of each other’s redlines. Similarly, both sides need to be aware of each other’s limitations and constraints,” said the ambassador of the ties, strained by a series of incidents last year.

Her remarks came as Islamabad and Washington looked at ways to reset relations in the light of Pakistani parliamentary recommendations, a result of the November 26, 2011 NATO strikes on Salala checkposts, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged the bilateral realtionship to the lowest point in the last decade.

Pakistan and the United States are engaged in the challenging choreographyof reconfiguring the bilateral relationship to make it “more transparent and sustainable,” the ambassador noted.

Pakistan’s Parliament has made history by taking charge of spelling out Pakistan’s “concerns, priorities and redlines,” she said.

“We hope to use this framework as the foundation for a healthier, more sustainable and mutually cooperative relationship with the United States.”
Islamabad, she said, considers the Pakistan-U.S. realtionship as one of themost important in the world and desires to strengthen it.

“For any relationship to be sustainable, both countries must treat each other as partners and respect their core interests.”

Pakistan-U.S. ties came under the shadow of 18-hour weekend militant attacks in Kabul, which Sherry Rehman touched on in her remarks, expressing condolences over the loss of 12 Afghans .

“I take this opportunity to reiterate our condemnation of these attacks and express our sympathy and solidarity with the people and government of Afghanistan on the loss of life,” she said, citing strong denunciation of the attacks by

President Asif Ali Zardari. The ambassador told the gathering that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has also spoken with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool to convey the same message.
At the same time, the envoy noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s considered comments that the attacks point out the need for better intelligence by both NATO and Afghan forces have been seen as important in Pakistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s has reiterated the need for “robust action” while underscoring the “shared responsibility by the U.S. and ISAF, byAfghanistan, and by Pakistan … to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists,” she said.

“There is no doubt that we are all doing that,” the Pakistani ambassador remarked

In this respect, she said while more than 1900 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan and thousands of Afghans have paid a similarly highprice, Pakistan has paid the highest price fighting these same terrorists and extremists.

Today, Pakistan is a changed country and has lost 37,000 Pakistani citizensto terrorists.

“There was one suicide bombing in Pakistan before 2001. There have been more than 300 since then,” Ambassador said, underscoring the sacrifices her nation has made in the fight against terror.

Pakistan’s armed forces, police, and other law enforcement agencies have lost more than 5,000 officials. The roster of Pakistani military dead includes every rank from three star general down to the ordinary private.

One in every ten military casualties is an officer. Terrorists have targeted our offices, hospitals, schools and colleges, bazaars, mosques, weddings and funerals.

Economically, she said, Pakistan lost $ 78 billion the war on terror.

“And let us not remember that we have lost one of the greatest leaders in Pakistani history, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist assassination, in an IED explosion.

“Clearly, the people of Pakistan do not need to be lectured about the dangers of terrorism,” she added, while renewing the country’s determination to defeat terrorism.

On Afghanistan, she said, Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process and is prepared to assist its neighbor in that effort in whatever way its Afghan brothers and sisters want.

“This is not a weightless statement, as we have made an important shift in our Afghan policy of the 1990s. While we have vital stakes in Afghan stability, we are very clear that Pakistan has no interest in playing favourites in Afghanistan, nor can we treat it as our strategic backyard.”

“There can be no military solutions to any conflict in the region, andAfghanistan is no exception.”

Other than the Afghans, Sherry Rehman reminded the gathering, the Pakistanis have the paid the highest price for instability and conflict in the itslandlocked western neighbor.

“We therefore find muted, and not so muted, aspersions that Pakistan is somehow responsible for the situation in Afghanistan extremely misplaced.

These also fly in the face of reason.”

“Let me say unequivocally, that Pakistan condemns every terrorist attack in no uncertain terms, and pays a heavy price in the mission to deny terrorists any quarter on our side of the border.”

Commenting on incidents impinging on Pakistani sovereignty and dignity, she

said, these have had a major impact on public opinion in the country, which in a democracy is critical.

Pakistan is in the process of turning a new page in Pakistan-US relations in which the representatives of the Pakistani people are the drivers of the equation. This is the first time that an average Pakistani is getting a stake in settling this vital relationship. This is also the first time that a democratic government has been able to build a crucial consensus in parliament on key national security interests, she said.

“Such public buy-in provides the best possibility for an open, long-term, broad-based, mutually cooperative relationship between Pakistan and United States.

Such a relationship is not only to the benefit of the two partners but also for enduring stability in a potentially volatile region. I sincerely hope we can build bridges that bring prosperity to both our peoples. We have a lot to give eachother, and I hope we can create the opportunities to do that.”
Ambassador Rehman said there is much an average American can identify with in an average Pakistani – “a never say die attitude, tremendous enterprise, a rugged individualism, boundless capacity to work hard and without complaint, and a constant quest to do better, especially when faced with challenges.”

Source : GMCT, Pakistan Embassy in Washington. By Ali Imran

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