President Asif Ali Zardari held bilateral talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the Nato summit in Chicago on Sunday, wherein he asked the US to help Pakistan reach a closure on the Salala episode “by following the path laid down by the country’s parliament.”
According to a press release, the president reminded the US secretary of state that Pakistan “wanted to find a permanent solution regarding drone strikes since these not only violated Pakistan’s sovereignty but also inflamed the public’s sentiments due to civilian casualties.”
The president also made it clear that Pakistan ‘still felt aggrieved over the Salala incident.’
The issue of Coalition Support Fund (CSF) payments was also discussed.
On the other hand, Secretary Clinton said that the US considers Pakistan an important ally in the war against terror and a partner in the efforts to promote regional peace.
The press release quoted Clinton as saying that the “US wants to engage Pakistan and it respects the parliamentary review of the country.” “It intends to move forward in its relationship with the people of Pakistan,” it added.
However, it was still not clear on what terms did the US intend to move forward in its relationship with Pakistan.
President Zardari also asked Secretary Clinton to help his country gain access to US markets and help Pakistan in “overcoming present challenges including the energy crisis.“
Regarding the Afghan endgame, the president asserted that “a genuine reconciliation process in the country which is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned remained the only viable solution to ending the conflict.”
“A trust deficit still remained between Pakistan and the US, on the other hand, and that implies that the goal of establishing a long-term, sustained and durable bilateral equation remains elusive,” he added.
“Bridging this trust deficit is a must for Pakistan in order to reinvigorate the counter-terrorism cooperation with the international community,” he said.
At the same time, it was emphasised that “the public ownership of the efforts against terrorism must not be allowed to get weakened through incidents like Salala or the loss of civilian lives as a result of drone attacks.”
The president also highlighted the need “to evolve a mechanism on evolving cooperation on counter terrorism as outlined by country’s parliament.”
“Both sides must consider designing a framework to find a mutually acceptable alternative,” he asserted.
The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, Ambassadors Cameron Munter, Marc Grossman and Sherry Rehman and Senator Farhatullah Babar, along with other officials.
A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the two leaders “discussed the importance of reopening Nato supply lines; taking a joint action against elements which threatened Pakistan, the United States and the region including al Qaeda and the Haqqani network; of supporting Afghanistan’s security, stability and efforts towards reaching a reconciliation in addition to negotiating for a US-Pakistan Bilateral Investment Treaty.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.