NUSA DUA, INDONESIA:
As Pakistan and the United States share a common, strategic aim of combating terror groups, Islamabad does not need any cajoling on the issue, newly appointed Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Saturday.
Khar’s remarks came after she held talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 18th Asean Regional Forum (ARF) Foreign Ministerial Meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali.
For the past several months, Washington and Islamabad have been engaged in often bitter recriminations over the kind of cooperation they expect from each other in the battle against militants.
Asked if Clinton prodded her on tackling militants operating from within Pakistan, Khar said: “We have the same strategic objective.”
“Pakistan is the first one to suffer because of terrorism, because of militancy. Pakistan is doing it for itself. You don’t need cajoling on that; that is in our national interest.”
During their talks, Clinton underscored the importance of bilateral relations while noting that Pakistan, as a nation, had great potential. She said that terrorism was a common threat both to Pakistan and the US, and stressed the need for continued close cooperation.
The US secretary of state also congratulated Khar on assuming her new responsibilities.
On her upcoming talks with her Indian counterpart SM Krishna in New Delhi, Khar said: “My expectation is to have a positive development in our relationship with India.”
Khar declared the talks between her country and India as a positive step and said India was serious in the composite dialogue process. Talking to a private news channel, she said the priority of her government in the conference with India is to set a future direction in the bilateral relationship.
Highlighting Pakistan’s position during the upcoming talks with India, she said that the government wanted to “look at the entire picture and at the root causes of problems”. She said during the talks, the two sides will take stock of progress made at the secretary-level talks.
The foreign minister asserted that Pakistan was pro-actively engaging with neighbouring countries, particularly Afghanistan and India, to achieve sustainable peace and stability in the region. It has been a baptism by fire for Khar, who was appointed to the post just this week, after five months as minister of state for foreign affairs. Besides Clinton, she also met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the security forum in Indonesia.
The meeting with Krishna will put her at the forefront of a complex, mutually antagonistic and volatile relationship between the two countries.
Khar, 34, also said she was comfortable about being in a senior post at a young age.
“Our culture reveres anyone who has the ability to work for the country and young or old does not make such a difference as much as what your approach is, what your goals are and as much as how you approach a problem,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2011.