Strategic dialogue: Sartaj Aziz flies to US with Afghanistan top of the agenda

Published: January 25, 2014
A file photo of US Secretary of State John Kerry meeting Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad on Augist 1, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

A file photo of US Secretary of State John Kerry meeting Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad on Augist 1, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has left for Washington to participate in the strategic dialogue between Pakistan and US, which begins on Monday at the US State Department.

Aziz is being accompanied by Defense Minister Khawaja Asif.

The ministerial level meeting between the two countries is expected to cover a wide range of bilateral issues. The top diplomats from both countries will review progress achieved in the working groups and discuss proposals and opportunities for partnership on diverse subjects‚ including defense‚ energy‚ economy‚ law-enforcement and counter-terrorism.

The Pakistani Foreign Office says it will use the opportunity to highlight priorities for economic development and the expansion of trade and investment.

Talks about much more than just Afghanistan: US State Dept

Ahead of the meeting, a US State Department official said in a background briefing that the dialogue covers five areas of cooperation and detailed discussions at the level of working groups on energy, defense, strategic stability, economic and finance, and law enforcement and counter-terrorism.

Leaders from both countries will work to “put together a blueprint of where we can take this relationship over the course of the next six months to a year.”

The State Department spokesperson emphasised that Washington-Islamabad cooperation spanned a wide range of issues and was not just confined to Afghanistan or the pullout of US and NATO forces from there.

“I don’t think Afghanistan’s going to go away. It’s kind of permanently there on Pakistan’s northwest frontier. So I think it will maintain an element,” said the spokesperson. “But as I said, we’re very interested in Pakistan’s relationship with India and seeing improvements in that. We’d encourage both sides in that regard.”

There are significant cooperative economic, security and energy ties between the two nations to be taken care of, she said. The US is interested in the strengthening of Pakistan’s economic and democratic institutions.

“We have a direct bilateral economic relationship with Pakistan. We’re Pakistan’s largest market. We have an interest in Pakistan’s economic development. And we have an interest in Pakistan’s domestic security. Pakistan is a large populous, nuclear-armed nation, and it’s important that its constitutional order and democratic processes continue to be strengthened. We’ve made a major investment in that. The Kerry-Lugar-Berman money is not tied to Afghanistan. It’s not tied to the security relationship. It’s really a bet on civilian rule, on democratic rule. We’re pleased that that investment is beginning to pay dividends in terms of consolidating that democratic rule.”

“The last Strategic Dialogue at the ministerial level was held in 2010 but afterwards the process faced a stalemate due to 2011 setbacks in the relations. ”

“First-name basis sort of thing”

The spokesperson noted that Pakistan and the United States have vastly improved their relationship since 2011, when a spate of incidents subjected it to severe strain, and that Nawaz’s visit to US and Kerry’s visit to Pakistan were both constructive and comprehensive.

“So at a personal level I think people are comfortable with each other, they’ve gotten to know each other, and the dialogue can be very candid, a first-name basis sort of thing.”

Trade and energy 

“We’re not looking for specific deliverables at this dialogue, we’re just looking to continue to strengthen and deepen the ongoing discussions and work towards kind of concrete dates in the future and particular areas of cooperation that we can make as pragmatic as possible.”

On energy cooperation between the two sides, officials said the US has helped put another 1000 megawatts of power to the national grid in Pakistan.

“But we’re really looking at regional solutions as well. Making sure that Pakistan is well integrated into a regional approach and this includes a $15 million commitment we made to CASA-1000.

“Also looking at the underlying policy reform issues that are so critical to address the energy crises that are ongoing in Pakistan. Obviously the Pakistanis in particular have really tried to move this relationship to a much more trade-based one as opposed to just assistance.  So we will continue to talk with them.”

“There will be, hopefully one thing which we’ll agree upon is the next trade-related meeting which the trade representative will hopefully be a key part of. Those are the TIFA talks. And we’re looking at ongoing ways to increase trade and creating the next business opportunities meeting.”

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Khurram Awan
    Jan 25, 2014 - 9:14PM

    In the above picture Sartaj Aziz looks like a small child lured by the big uncle towards the nearby fields.


  • Azi
    Jan 25, 2014 - 9:25PM

    Look, how happy our Pakistani official is. He must be excited about a US aid for country that he and others could loot.


  • fahim
    Jan 25, 2014 - 9:40PM

    So we beggars are ready with another round of alms another round of boot polishing to get few dollars of bheek… shame on us.. what is the purpose of this visit sir? We create problems on our own, we are the key mastermind of all these troubles, and then we go around begging for money..


  • Hedgefunder
    Jan 25, 2014 - 10:18PM

    Any dialogue with this Nation is quite meaningless without Army Chief’s presence !
    This dialogue is likely to be one way traffic, With Pakistan begging for more Aid !
    Not much is likely to be entertained by Washington, as they are well aware as Pakistan’s reluctance to deal with their assets and their short sighted thinking, which has brought this Nation to being classed as Failed State.


  • unbelievable
    Jan 25, 2014 - 10:39PM


    So we beggars are ready with another
    round of alms another round of boot
    polishing to get few dollars of bheek…
    shame on us.

    Interesting viewpoint. I would think meeting with your largest trading partner and the country which has significant influence on International financing is something that any country would appreciate and even look forward too.


  • asim
    Jan 25, 2014 - 10:42PM

    @Khurram Awan:
    This 90 years old man will take Pakistan with him in the graveyard


  • usman786
    Jan 25, 2014 - 11:47PM

    We have seen such pictures “of closeness” many times in past. USA has helped but not compensated for $100 billions lost due to war on terror.Recommend

  • Zif
    Jan 26, 2014 - 1:12AM

    I wish some good news to come out of this conference—— not in the form of aid but peace & security. Then I think, if wishes were horses…


  • Rex Minor
    Jan 26, 2014 - 3:00AM

    One can dance with the wolf but not sleep with the beast! Is it not the time for the Pakistan political leadership to put their house in order whatever is left and disengage its role from the war of terror.

    Rex Minor.


  • polpot
    Jan 26, 2014 - 6:00AM

    ” partnership on diverse subjects‚ including defense‚ energy‚ economy‚ law-enforcement and counter-terrorism”
    so drones are no longer on the discussion table? interesting.


  • Major Iqbal
    Jan 26, 2014 - 8:32AM

    Waste of time as foreign policy and security matters in Pakistan are handled by the military and not the civilian government.


  • asim
    Jan 26, 2014 - 8:52AM

    Why not talk on phone? He is old and will get tired over 16 hours journey.
    May be he wants to see some old days magic of his life in US in 1964


  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 26, 2014 - 9:41AM

    Dear unbelievable,
    I must be reading different statistics from you. In percentage of trade the US comes in at about fifth. Hardly Pakistan’s largest trading partner.


  • Sodomite
    Jan 26, 2014 - 9:58AM

    @Khurram Awan:
    You are right. In US people no longer entertain themselves in fields to which you allude. They have something called the outhouse, detached from the main house\building. That’s where they go to commit solemn promises of fidelity and depending on that $$$$ flow.


  • Baby Ka Husband
    Jan 26, 2014 - 10:00AM

    @Khurram Awan:
    Observe Aziz’s expression. He is dreading what is about to happen to him!!!!


  • jamil subhani
    Jan 26, 2014 - 8:50PM

    Dialogues solve problems and nations come clOser.both faces. Show they sincere in this deeds.


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