Top military officials from Pakistan and the United States will meet this week in the latest effort to repair ties damaged by a series of diplomatic rows between the two countries, particularly the continuing drone strikes in the tribal areas by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen will be in Islamabad to discuss with Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani the issues that have two countries, said Pakistani and American officials.
“Admiral Mullen is visiting Islamabad this week to meet Pakistan’s top military leadership,” a US diplomat told The Express Tribune while requesting anonymity.
Admiral Mullen will be the second high-level US military official, who is touring Pakistan in less than two weeks after the visit of the head of US Central Command Gen James N Mattis on April 7. In between, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha also had a meeting with CIA chief Leon Panetta in Washington.
But these interactions remained inconclusive, as the Obama administration refused to halt the drone strikes in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan while Pakistan sought increased scrutiny of the CIA operatives working in the country.
The frayed relations between Islamabad and Washington have threatened to impede the progress on Afghanistan.
Pakistan is considered to have a pivotal role in any future political dispensation in neighbouring Afghanistan. And its central role has been acknowledged last weekend during a visit to Kabul by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani where the two countries upgraded a joint commission, which is meant to further the reconciliation process.
On the other hand a six-member visiting US Congressional delegation, led by House Speaker John Boehner, also underlined Pakistan’s importance.
“A strong US-Pakistan relationship is vital to the interests of both of our countries,” John Boehner said in a statement at the conclusion of the visit.
“We recognise that the Pakistani military and the Pakistani people have made great sacrifices in recent years in the struggle against extremism and terrorism,” he added.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is scheduled to visit Washington on April 21 to attend the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue.
Express 24/7 reported on Monday that Bashir will be leading a high-level delegation to Washington for the crucial session. Issues like war against terrorism, bilateral relations and coalition support fund for Pakistan will figure in the talks. Both sides are trying to resolve differences, especially on the issue of drone attacks in the tribal areas.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is scheduled to visit Washington on April 21, for the Pak-US strategic dialogue, Express 24/7 reported on Monday. Bashir will leave for Washington accompanied by a high-level delegation. Some of the topics on the agenda include war against terrorism, bilateral relations and a support fund for Pakistan. Both sides are looking to resolve differences, especially on the issue of drone attacks in the tribal areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2011.