By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, Sep 22: In a step towards normalization of bilateral ties, the United States and Pakistan have agreed to revive meetings of working groups under a roadmap agreed at the meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
Wrapping up her first official visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Khar said five working groups on security, strategic stability and non-proliferation, counterterrorism and law enforcement, energy and water, economic, finance and trade cooperation and defense consultative group will meet over next three months.
“We have agreed on a roadmap of cooperation to advance relations in a sustainable way and under this five working groups will meet in the next three months —these groups will cover the all aspects of Pakistan-US relations,” Ms Khar after her meeting with Hillary Clinton.
The cooperative move comes after a difficult 18-month phase in bilateral relations, during which the two countries scaled back bilateral cooperation.
The relations between two countries started improving with the reopening of Pakistani supply routes into Afghanistan in July, a development, which was followed by a series of high-level contacts.
Still, the two countries have to grapple with some serious differences like US employment of drones to hit militants holed up in Pakistani tribal areas.
Ms Khar said she raised the issue strongly during her meetings.
“We had a frank, candid and honest discussion on all issues including a long discussion on drones,” she told Washington-based Pakistani journalists.
“I think that is what we have always said, we maintain our position on drones that they are counterproductive, illegal, and unlawful and we continue to engage with the United States (on the issue).”
However, the foreign minister felt “there is a deeper understanding in the US as to what are the negative fallout of drone strikes in Pakistan.”
The foreign minister underlined the convergence of goals with regard to peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“It is important that the people of Pakistan and the United States should know that we have convergence of interests —- the two sides have started building trust — both Pakistan and the United States want peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
She particularly noted Secretary Clinton’s announcement that the US will build Torkham-Peshawar road, saying it represents the first American step towards sharing the infrastructure load on account of NATO supplies traffic that passes through Pakistani territory to enter Afghanistan via border-crossings.
“By and large I remain satisfied with the visit – this is a good first step towards putting the bilateral relations back on track,” Khar remarked.
The foreign minister she made Pakistan’s case for preferential market access in view of the multifaceted challenges facing the country.
“I found understanding on the issue and I hope for progress on it.”
She also expressed Pakistan’s interest in getting US support for Basha dam, since the project would greatly help Islamabad in overcoming energy shortage.
The foreign minister praised Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington Sherry Rehman for her efforts and extensive diplomatic engagement with US officials and lawmakers towards improving the important bilateral relationship.
Regarding Afghan reconciliation, the foreign minister said a trilateral mechanism is in place, which is working on the issue. In this respect, she referred to the recent safe passage working group meeting in Islamabad.
“The concept is there should be clarity in the reconciliation and what steps are needed to achieve the goal. Pakistan role is that of a facilitator – we have always said this should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven process.
“There should be no doubt that Pakistan will do whatever is within its capacity to be able to assist its Afghan brothers and sisters.”
- Pakistani Foreign Minister: ‘We Do Need to Rethink How Much Freedom is Okay’ (cnsnews.com)
- Pakistan seeks no strategic depth in Afghanistan, US told – The News International (thenews.com.pk)
- Pakistan to talk counterterrorism with US, Afghans: Khar (dawn.com)
- Khar to arrive in Washington on Tuesday (dawn.com)
- Pakistan will engage in tripartite talks: Khar (nation.com.pk)