US Ambassador in Islamabad Richard Olson has hinted at the resumption of strategic dialogue with Pakistan.
In a meeting with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Friday, he said it was high time to resume the strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the US.
At the two-hour meeting at the interior ministry, Olson expressed hope that the working groups formed to deal with energy, defence and economy would start meeting again and its mechanism would be settled during the forthcoming visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry. The two sides also discussed the Doha process aimed at bringing an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.
The strategic dialogue, which was designed to ensure cooperation between the two countries from beyond the security related matters, was first suspended in the aftermath of the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in Lahore in early 2011. Although, the two sides agreed to resume the process in May that year, talks were delayed again and failed to take place till now due to the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and the Salala airstrike which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The last round of talks was held in October 2010 in Washington.
Although, different working groups under the strategic dialogue resumed discussions over the past few months, a ministerial meeting at the foreign minister level could not take place. Official sources, however, told The Express Tribune that the ministerial meeting will take place during Kerry’s visit.
Kerry was originally scheduled to travel to Islamabad later this month but postponed his visit due to rapidly changing developments over the Syrian crisis. A foreign office representative said Kerry is likely to visit next month.
According to the official statement released after the meeting, Nisar said the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif firmly believed that dialogue and reconciliation was the only way forward to bring peace to the region. He said it was a matter of satisfaction that Pakistan was able to play a role in this process and appreciated US acknowledgement of the same.
The US ambassador thanked Pakistan for its positive role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, said the statement. He assured that US would continue to work closely with Pakistan to ensure stability in the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2013.