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News | March 23, 2010

Talks aimed at strengthening ties between U.S., Pakistan

WASHINGTON (March 23, 2010) –  Talks between Pakistani and American officials seek to strengthen,  broaden and deepen the ties between the two countries, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said here today.

                High-level talks between the United States and Pakistan are designed to chart the course of the relationship between the two nations as they move forward. “This is a meeting between equals,” said a military official speaking on background. “Both countries will gain from this discussion.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm.  Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will participate in the discussions, but the Strategic Dialogue – as it is being called –  is not primarily a security discussion.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead the American side and Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi is her opposite number. The dialogue stresses the U.S.-Pakistani partnership that goes far beyond security. “It represents a shared commitment on the part of both nations to strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust,”  Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said last week.

The meetings begin at the State Department tomorrow, and the dialogue encompasses all aspects of U.S.-Pakistani relations. Also participating are Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, the adviser to the prime minister on social issues, Wazir Ali; the adviser to the prime minister on agriculture and water, Majid Ullah; the chief of staff of the army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani,  and many others.

Among the American delegation are Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, National Security Council Senior Director David Lipton, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah, and others.

“This dialogue is designed to produce a better long-term strategic relationship between our two countries,” Morrell said. “This is not simply about asking and receiving items.”

The whole range of U.S-Pakistani relations will be discussed. The United States and Pakistan can discuss agricultural methods and new means of irrigation. “Water and electricity are becoming problems in Pakistan,” said the military official. “We can certainly share some experiences on those.”

Delivering education is important, as is increasing the effectiveness of civil service personnel. Participants in the dialogue also will address ways to improve the image of America among the Pakistani population, officials said.

Gates and Mullen met with Gen. Kayani at the Pentagon yesterday. They will continue the meeting on Thursday. Pakistani lessons in the counterinsurgency campaign, intelligence-sharing and training will be discussed.

The military-to-military relationship between the two countries is improving. Both sides are trying to overcome the effects of the Pressler Amendment, which forbade the U.S. military from dealing with the Pakistanis for 12 years. More exercises, more training together, more military exchanges between the United States and Pakistan are needed, the official said, and that is being planned.

The bottom line is that both the United States and Pakistan are democracies and it is in both countries’ interests to work together. “The United States is supporting Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, as it seeks to foster more economic development, expand opportunities, deal with its energy and water problems and defeat the extremist groups who threaten both Pakistan’s security and stability in the larger region and American national security as well,” Holbrooke said.