President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday strategic dialogue process and frequent interaction among the leadership of Pakistan and the US have replaced the trust deficit between the two countries with a new sense of partnership.
He was talking to the US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Norton A Schwartz, who called on him at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.
Matters relating to the Pak-US bilateral relations, chiefly defence cooperation, Pakistan’s fight against extremism and security situation in the region figured in the discussion.
The President said that inclusion of defence dialogue in the ambit of the strategic dialogue framework is also a step in the right direction.
The President thanked the US government for the timely delivery of F-16 aircraft, which have been used extensively in counter-terrorism operations.
The President urged mid-life upgrade of the F-16s and said that defence collaboration between the two countries must remain strong. He said that this technology would not only eliminate PAF’s existing limitations of precision night operations but also enable the PAF to meet its mission more effectively.
He called for early transfer of drone technology to Pakistan for its effective use by security forces to curb militancy and for its wider public acceptability.
The President also emphasized on quick reimbursement of arrears under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and added that the delay in payment is stressing Pakistan’s budgetary situation.
Talking about regional situation, the President said that Pakistan being a responsible country is aware of its obligations and responsibilities and is committed to the peace and stability of the region.
The President said that Pakistan has made huge human and material sacrifices to overcome the challenges of terrorism and militancy and its contribution towards counter terrorism is unmatched.
The President while appreciating the US humanitarian assistance said that the government looked forward to the US and the international community for support and assistance in meeting the challenges faced by this prolonged war against terrorism. He said that the government looked forward to international assistance in meeting the challenges faced by it.
He said that Pakistan needed trade and market access for its products in order to set its economy on the path of stability and prosperity.
Gen Norton A Schwartz said that the government and the people of United States highly appreciate the sacrifices made by the people, security forces and other civilian law enforcing agencies of Pakistan in the war against militants.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2010.
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