Kerry’s visit: Pakistan, US to revive strategic dialogue

Published: August 2, 2013
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US Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz before their meeting. PHOTO COURTESY: US STATE DEPT

US Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz before their meeting. PHOTO COURTESY: US STATE DEPT

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan and the United States on Thursday agreed to resume their stalled ‘strategic dialogue’ but failed to narrow down their differences over the controversial CIA-led drone programme.

The decision to restart high-level talks, covering issues from security to economy, was taken after visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry held a series of meetings with the top Pakistani civil and military leadership.

Kerry met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and held formal talks with his Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. He separately met army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Inter Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam and President Asif Ali Zardari as well.

Speaking to reporters alongside Aziz, Secretary Kerry described his talks as ‘positive and constructive’ and announced the two countries would resume strategic dialogue.

“I’m pleased to announce that today, very quickly, we were able to agree to a resumption of the strategic dialogue in order to foster a deeper, broader and more comprehensive partnership between our countries,” Kerry told reporters here at the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The Pakistan-US relationship is not defined by the threats we face and is not just about counter-terrorism,” he said, adding that the US was concerned with Pakistan’s economic revival.

Kerry confirms timeline for drones

Hopes were raised when Secretary Kerry, in an interview with PTV, suggested that US drone strikes in Pakistan could end ‘very soon’. The unusually outspoken remarks were welcomed in Islamabad but immediately downplayed by American aides.

“I think the [drone] programme will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it,” replied Kerry when asked whether the controversial campaign could end. Pressed on whether a timeline was envisaged, he responded: “Well, I do. And I think the (US) president has a very real timeline and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”

It is the first time such a senior member of the US administration has indicated there could be a definitive end to the programme, which the CIA has in the past called an effective counter-terrorism weapon.

But US officials immediately sought to downplay Kerry’s remarks. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the number of drone strikes had declined owing to the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan and because of progress in curtailing the al Qaeda threat.

“Today the secretary referenced the changes that we expect to take place in that programme over the course of time, but there is no exact timeline to provide,” she said in a statement.

Kerry’s television remarks also strayed from what he told the news conference with Sartaj Aziz earlier, when he tackled complaints about drones by pointing the finger at al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, who is believed by certain quarters to be based in Pakistan.

“An al Qaeda leader like al Zawahiri is violating the sovereignty of this country. And when they attack people in mosques and blow up people in villages and market places they are violating the sovereignty of [Pakistan],” he said, after Aziz repeated the government’s stated position that drone strikes violate the country’s ‘territorial integrity and sovereignty.’

‘It is also no secret that along this journey in the last few years we’ve experienced a few differences,’’ Kerry said.

“Pakistan cannot realise its full economic potential until it overcomes extremists,” Kerry told the news conference. “The choice for Pakistanis is clear: will the forces of violent extremism be allowed to grow more dominant, eventually overpowering the moderate majority?” Pakistani authorities briefed Kerry on the new proposed counter-terrorism strategy the government is currently formulating.

Replying to a question, Aziz ruled out the possibility of launching any fresh offensive in North Waziristan Agency against the militants. “Our first preference is to hold talks, if that does not work then we can consider other options,” he added.

During his talks with Kerry, Nawaz emphasized Pakistan’s desire to get access to the American markets to boost economy and assistance in overcoming the energy crisis. Kerry reiterated the US government’s stance on Diamer-Bhasha Dam and said his country will facilitate its construction.  He also invited Nawaz to visit Washington for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

‘Zardari deserves credit for transition’

During his meeting with President Zardari, Kerry congratulated him on seeing the country through its first democratic transition. “I think President Zardari deserves credit… It is an enormous step forward. It is historic. In the 66 year history of Pakistan that has never happened. So change comes over time,” he said.

He also telephoned the newly-elected president Mamnoon Hussain and congratulated him on his victory.

Meeting with Imran Khan

The visiting diplomat also met Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan. During the meeting, Imran insisted that stopping the drone strikes would motivate militants to give up their fight. He explained that the programme was counterproductive since it both cost civilian lives and fuelled terrorism.

Remarking on the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Imran asserted that it needed to be carried out in an orderly fashion or else Pakistan will have to face the brunt of the situation left behind, like in the case of Soviet withdrawal.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • PakPower
    Aug 2, 2013 - 3:48AM

    This whole visit has been one big contradiction for Kerry. I don’t think anything good will come out of it.Recommend

  • Ali
    Aug 2, 2013 - 4:07AM

    looks like us pak to revive and china pak to die.

    Recommend

  • Hafiz
    Aug 2, 2013 - 4:29AM

    LOL……….will it be sweeter than saccharine and higher than mountain???

    Recommend

  • confused
    Aug 2, 2013 - 7:23AM

    It’s been a great visit. Pakistan and the US need to work together on counter-terrorism and economic cooperation. I think in the long run a solid economic backbone will eliminate terrorism more than all drone strikes and operations. US and Pakistan have always been allies and if it wasn’t for a few stubborn generals and policy makers on both sides, the relationship would have always blossomed.

    Pakistan needs to move into the 21st century as a global ally. Mend fences with India and build strong relations with both China and the US.

    US needs to build a positive relationship with Pakistan as that would be a gateway to not only a positive image in the Middle East and South Asia but also Central Asia, which will see tremendous economic growth in the near future.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Aug 2, 2013 - 7:41AM

    President Obama was elected when he promised his voters that he would not wait and take out the high value targets in Pakistan without any hesitation. For his second term his campaign utilized the death of OBL and promised to continue with war on terror. Nobody can go against the promises of the president especially his appointed govt officials. Obama should watch out before he cuts and runs. American voters are watching him and the next congressional elections are only in 2014.

    Recommend

  • LuvPak
    Aug 2, 2013 - 10:18AM

    I guess U.S has learned it lesson the hard way. It would not do same mistake again. New approach would be longterm friendship with no abandonment due to domestic politics or international influence or lobbying. It’s good for Pakistan that democrates are in power in U.S. who encourage democracy in third world countries instead of looking for arms trade opportunity at the cost of democracy. My suggestion: None of us are moving to Mars so face the realities.

    Recommend

  • Polpot
    Aug 2, 2013 - 10:37AM

    The acid test for the relationship is what has not been stated: Afghanistan
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    What actually transpires on the ground in Afghanistan and what is Pakistans role in that will determine the future of the US Pak relationship. The key issue is the degree of control if any that the Civilian Govt will exercise over its deep state.
    So in conclusion wait & watch. Drones can go and be back:)

    Recommend

  • Polpot
    Aug 2, 2013 - 11:42AM

    Logical LogJam
    ++++++++++++++
    ““I think the [drone] programme will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it,””
    The argument against drones has been that they result more terrorists to be created…but Mr Kerry says that the drones have almost eliminated the terrorists.
    Someone is being diplomatic.

    Recommend

  • Polpot
    Aug 2, 2013 - 11:46AM

    “Kerry confirms timeline for drones”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Thats your sub head. Pls share where is the confirmed deadline:).
    Why does ET fabricate news instead of reporting it?

    Recommend

  • chu en lei
    Aug 2, 2013 - 2:23PM

    As a frontline state on war against terrorism, Pakistan has been in deep chaos. Nearly 40000 lives including military and civilians have been lost. But US has not properly appreciated this effort just kept saying do more. It’s the time now to enhance strategic ties between the states. so that Pakistan will play vital role in upcoming US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Both the states need to build up nuclear ties and strategic relations in order to deal with common enemy.

    Recommend

  • syed baqar ahsan
    Aug 2, 2013 - 2:56PM

    Where are those”keys” which Mr Kerry has handed over on his “key Visit”,like us our media is also immature and always create hype whenever some words twisters visit from America.we or media has no right to raise expectation.Let us stand on over feet.

    Recommend

  • Aug 2, 2013 - 2:56PM

    Didn’t get anything. Condused man John Kerry made me mad and confused

    Recommend

  • Xi fu wan
    Aug 2, 2013 - 4:00PM

    To my friends in Pakistan, do not fall to false U.S and British promises, all they want is make dent in Pakistan China friendship . Already there is lobby in China which is against Pakistan and calls Pakistan as bluffer state. According to them Pakistan is just bluffing world with its strong pitched “strategic position” to beg more funds from other countries. China is very strong friend of Pakistan but if this bluffing game continues then day is not far when China will move closer to India . Already, India and China are on way to solve their border problems and there is secret strategic dialogue going on between India ,Russia and China .

    Recommend

  • Aug 2, 2013 - 6:21PM

    We have to keep in mind that our shared interests in the region laid the base for our partnership. Our common stance against terrorism has allowed us to overcome many obstacles and challenges in our decade long partnership. We’ve been able to catch some of the top terrorist leaders through mutual cooperation. At the moment, we’re focused on building on our improving relationship. We do not gain anything by indulging in our past differences, and simply shift the advantage in our enemies favor. We’ve said this before and say it again: We would like to see the regional partners working together for the betterment of the region. Let’s review what Secretary of State John Kerry said: “I’m pleased to announce that today, very quickly, we were able to agree to a resumption of the strategic dialogue in order to foster a deeper, broader and more comprehensive partnership between our countries. The Pakistan-US relationship is not defined by the threats we face and is not just about counter-terrorism.” His statements clearly emphasize the importance of maintaining a long term healthy working relationship. There is no reason for us to be pessimistic in regards to the future of our relationship. We simply hope to continue our partnership, and hope to address any shared concerns through these meetings.

    Ali Khan
    DET, United States Central Command

    Recommend

  • Xi Fi Li
    Aug 2, 2013 - 7:51PM

    Dear Pak friends, Pak China friendship is unbreakable like always. U.S. is not jealous from our friendship as much as India is. The border dispute & claims we have with India are deep & way serious & unsolveable that the one Pak has with India. No doubt India gas setup anti-Pak think tanks & lobby camps in China who are working round the clock. Yes, I suggest stay awake & don’t shoot in your own foot by giving them a chance to work-on. Other than that U.S is just picking up where China left. I suggest don’t make more enemies than you can handle. You definitely have to watch for not only making more friends but also to keep old friends from turning into enemies.

    Recommend

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