The Pakistani leadership on Saturday reiterated their call for an enduring partnership with the United States and forging a relationship beyond cooperation on the war against terrorism, with specific terms of engagement.
The American senator and former presidential candidate John McCain met President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani separately to discuss Pak-US relations, among other regional issues. McCain’s visit comes among a flurry of diplomatic efforts to put strained Pak-US ties back on track.
(Read: Repairing relations with the United States)
In his meeting with McCain, Prime Minister Gilani said he looked forward to a deeper level of engagement with the US in all areas of bilateral relations, including energy and economic cooperation.
Gilani also appreciated Senator McCain’s continued support to Pakistan in the US Congress and said he would welcome a visit by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
His sentiments were echoed by President Zardari whom McCain met later at the Presidency.
“We need to build a framework for an enduring strategic partnership,” said Zardari. “The president reiterated his call for specifying clear and unambiguous terms of engagement in the war against militants, in order to avoid adverse impacts on bilateral relations,” said presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar after the meeting.
Zardari told the visiting senator that the war against terrorism is a long-drawn war and it is important that the root causes of militancy are also addressed, Babar said.
The president called for a multi-pronged strategy encompassing socio-economic, political and educational measures besides judicious use of power to address the challenge of militancy and militant mindset, he added.
“With direct and indirect economic losses amounting to $68 billion and 35000 martyrs behind us, we were determined to pursue this war till its logical conclusion,” Babar quoted the president as saying. The president also raised the issue of recent moves in the Congress to reduce civilian assistance to Pakistan.
The issue of delays in reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZ) legislation and Enterprise Fund were also discussed during the meeting.
Senator McCain acknowledged that relations between the US and Pakistan had seen difficult times in the past but said that Washington considers Islamabad as an important country. It is not in the US national interest to abandon Pakistan once again, he said.
He assured the leadership of America’s continued support to the people of Pakistan in their endeavour to secure a stable and prosperous future.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2011.