WASHINGTON: National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz on Monday underscored the need for building trust to foster a an enduring strategic partnership between Pakistan and the United States as he addressed the opening session of the Strategic Dialogue with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Welcoming the Pakistani delegation of the resumed strategic dialogue, which has been billed as opportunity for a new chapter in bilateral relations, Kerry held out US commitment to a long-term relationship.
He said the US wanted to deepen and strengthen strategic partnership with Pakistan across a wide spectrum of areas of common interest.Sartaj Aziz, in his remarks, said the restored ministerial review of the strategic partnership was taking place in the backdrop of significant developments within Pakistan, in US-Pakistan bilateral relations and in the region.
He underscored the need for building mutual trust in Pakistan-US relations at all levels.
“The most important pre-requisite for strategic partnership, in my view, is mutual trust at all levels and among all key institutions. Once this trust is restored, then any unexpected incidents or accidents or disagreements over a policy or a tactic, would not be able to derail the relationship, as happened in 2011 and 2012.”
He said Islamabad expected that the United States would not look at Pakistan from the two specific lenses of Afghanistan or terrorism.
“These are legitimate US concerns but these must be balanced by giving due importance to Pakistan’s own security concerns. There is in fact need for a careful attention to the long term effects of US policies on Pakistan’s security.
I am sure, most of you will agree that historically, Pakistan’s security concerns were not taken into account, when the US decided to withdraw from Afghanistan in the early 1990s after the defeat of the soviet forces with Pakistan’s active support, or when it invaded Afghanistan after 9/11.”
“Similarly there is a strong perception in Pakistan that while a lot of pressure is exerted on Pakistan on issues of concerns to India, our legitimate concerns are not conveyed to India with the same intensity,” he added.
If these important pre-requisites are met, then the contribution of other elements of this important relationship such as expanded trade, higher level of private investment, long term partnership on some major projects, will become far more significant and mutually reinforcing, Sartaj Aziz said.
Minister for Defence, Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Secretary Defence, Chief of General Staff, and Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani were among the senior Pakistani officials attending the dialogue.
The US sides included Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan James Dobbins, and US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson.
The revived ministerial dialogue takes place after a pause of three years “due to 2011 setbacks in the bilateral ties” and covers five areas of cooperation, including energy, defence, strategic stability, economic and finance, and law enforcement and counter-terrorism.
According to the State Department, the Strategic Dialogue ministerial meeting provides a platform for a focused discussion on “core shared interests”.
The Strategic Dialogue will report on progress achieved over the past six months, and identify opportunities for increased partnership, in areas of bilateral cooperation, including law enforcement and counterterrorism, economic growth and finance, energy, defence, and strategic stability.