ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday raised Washington’s as well as the international community’s concerns about a civil nuclear deal between China and Pakistan.
Clinton told a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that Islamabad would have to address the concerns before it could translate the agreement into reality. “The concerns and questions have been delivered to Pakistan and it has to answer the questions now.”
In defence of the agreement, Qureshi said that it was aimed at alleviating his country’s energy crisis and vowed that his government would satisfy the international community about the agreement. “Pakistan has very clear policy as far as the non-proliferation of nuclear arms is concerned. Its nuclear programme is safe and there has been not a single mishap during nuclear energy generation in the last 35 years.” The press conference was held after the second ministerial Pakistan-US strategic dialogue meeting.
Earlier Clinton announced aid projects for Pakistan worth almost $500 million and focused on water and energy needs.
Acknowledging the legacy of mutual suspicion between the two countries, Clinton reiterated her country’s wish to build long-term, integrated relations with Pakistan. She also professed a desire for result- oriented dialogue with Islamabad.
However, Clinton assured her audience that the relationship would not be confined to security matters. “The US wants to help the government of Pakistan uplift the status of its people and we will be focusing on the fields of health, education, water and energy in Pakistan.” In a bid to strengthen the relationship between the US and the government and people of Pakistan, said Clinton, the US would release $7.5 billion over five years in non-military aid.
Clinton also announced financial assistance for 18 energy projects in various parts of Pakistan including in Gilgit-Baltistan, Lahore, Kasur, Multan, Sui, Jamshoro, Quetta, Hyderabad and Karachi.
Besides two dams, the projects include various drinking water and irrigation schemes, as well as the building of health centres and schemes to improve agriculture and private sector income.
Both sides also shared perspectives on the regional security situation and reaffirmed the importance of advancing stability and peace in Afghanistan and the region.
While responding to a question, Clinton said the US supported the integration and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. “I advise my friends in Afghanistan to hold talks with those Taliban who want to join the political arena and support the peace process.” However, she made it clear that those who were not ready to lay down arms would be defeated at any cost.
Clinton also condemned the attack on Data Darbar in Lahore and said the US would help Pakistan fight terrorism and their “common enemies”.
Clinton and Qureshi have agreed to a meeting of the sectoral working groups prior to the next session of the Strategic Dialogue, which is to be held in in Washington D.C. before the end of this year.
Speaking later at the Pakistan National Council of Arts and in her meeting with senior journalists, Clinton said the American team was discussing a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan but they had reservations about Islamabad’s not signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). She said the acquisition of civil nuclear technology was achievable but a US-Pak civil nuclear deal could not be negotiated without the consent of the world community.
She said the US could not enforce a solution regarding Kashmir but stressed on the need for the dialogue process to remain in place. She insisted that both countries would need to take bold steps, recognising that “one stresses Kashmir and the other, terrorism” in the negotiations.
The US secretary of state said she still stood by her previous statement regarding the presence of Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. She said bin Laden was an enemy of the US and that the US would never have attacked Afghanistan if bin Laden had been handed over after 9/11. “If 9/11 is repeated, the situation will get very complicated; we have a very clear opinion on the issue,” she said.
Insisting that the matter relating to the extension of the term of Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is Pakistan’s internal affair, she reiterated US support for uprooting terrorism in Pakistan.
Clinton concluded her visit with closed-door discussions with Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on what she termed “the best means of achieving peace and stability” in Afghanistan.
Clinton said she and Kayani discussed Pakistan’s “request for excess defence assets, something that we think makes a lot of sense -- how we can better exchange intelligence.” “I understand the challenges they face,” she told journalists during her short flight between Islamabad and Kabul. Secretary Clinton described as “very good” her two-day visit to Pakistan ahead of her arrival for an international conference in the Afghan capital. (With additional input from Wires)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2010.
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