WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday reiterated their commitment to further strengthen their multifaceted partnership as Washington expressed its continuing support for the Pakistani armed forces in their outgoing counter-insurgency operations in the tribal areas.
In a joint statement issued at the end of the sixth ministerial-level Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue, the two sides noted the importance of US-Pakistan defense cooperation, which supports shared strategic objectives relating to counter-terrorism and regional stability.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and United States Secretary of State John Kerry met on Tuesday to convene the meeting under the Strategic Dialogue Framework.
The last ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue was held in Islamabad on January 13, 2015.This session built on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s successful visit to Washington in October 2015.
Both the United States and Pakistani delegations expressed their desire for the US-Pakistan bilateral security relationship to continue on a mutually beneficial and sustainable trajectory.
The United States expressed appreciation for the sacrifices made by Pakistani security forces and civilians in these efforts. The Pakistani delegation expressed its appreciation for US support in bolstering Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capacity.
Both sides underscored the importance of bilateral defense cooperation as serving their mutual interest and noted their willingness to explore new avenues to refine defense collaboration.
Pakistan expressed its appreciation for the pledge of $250 million announced by Secretary Kerry in 2015 for the relief, recovery and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons from the FATA.The United States continues to partner with Pakistan to reconstruct schools, hospitals, and infrastructure to restore communities in the FATA and assist in the return of people to their homes.
The two sides emphasized the importance of meaningful dialogue in support of peaceful resolution of outstanding issues, including Kashmir. The delegations underscored that all parties in the region should continuously act with maximum restraint and work collaboratively toward reducing tensions.
Noting the steps taken by Pakistan to date, including the detention of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Maulana Masood Azhar, the United States appreciated Prime Minister Sharif’s stated commitment to take prompt and decisive action on this investigation and to bring the perpetrators of the January 2, 2016 attack on the Pathankot airbase to justice.
Both sides expressed their conviction that a robust, long-term bilateral relationship remains critical to regional and international security and prosperity.They agreed that a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan is an essential partner for the United States in advancing these shared goals.
“As such, the United States and Pakistan have a shared and enduring interest in Pakistan’s continued economic growth and prosperity, increased bilateral trade and investment, education and social development, respect for human rights and rule of law, regional stability, and ongoing collaboration on measures to counter violent extremism and combat terrorism,” the statement added.
The two reaffirmed the importance of the Strategic Dialogue, which provides vision and direction for this bilateral partnership, and reviewed progress made in its six working groups, which represent core areas of joint interest and cooperation.
These included 1) Energy; 2) Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation; 3) the Defense Consultative Group; 4) Law Enforcement and Counter-terrorism; 5) Economics and Finance; and 6) Education, Science, and Technology.
The meeting also acknowledged the importance of sustaining cooperation on shared interests through US civilian assistance, in line with the intent of legislation known as the “Kerry-Lugar-Berman” act.Finally, they charged the Working Groups with continuing to meet according to a mutually determined schedule. –APP