US Secretary of State John Kerry and Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz would meet here next week and expected to come up with a “blueprint” on the future of the bilateral ties.
“There won’t be specific announcements, but there will be a blueprint produced in terms of where we continue to take this relationship and how we continue to advance it,” a senior State Department official said yesterday.
The much anticipated Strategic Dialogue between the two sides is scheduled to be held in Washington on Monday. This is the first high-level meeting between top officials of the two countries after the October meeting of President Barack Obama with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House.
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“Having seen the highs and lows of this relationship over the last four and a half years, both countries have put an enormous amount of effort into assiduously putting this relationship on firmer ground over the last year and a half,” he said.
“This is really kind of the fruition of it, but not in any way the end point. It’s yet another conversation, continuing the dialogue and continuing to strengthen that,” he added.
Another senior State Department official said on the security side, a major focus of discussions between the two sides is expected as Prime Minister Sharif has been helping to promote a stable and productive transition in Afghanistan through what’s going to be an important year with national elections, with the drawdown in US and NATO forces.
Leading a high-powered Pakistan delegation for the talks with top US officials, Aziz is scheduled to arrive here over the weekend.
Aziz, also the Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security, is also expected to meet other top officials of the Obama Administration including those at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the Department of Treasury and the Department of Energy among others.
“The Prime Minister had an excellent visit here, a very comprehensive set of meetings. I think he went back very pleased. Kerry had a similarly good visit, established a good relationship with the National Security Advisor.
“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,” another State Department official said.
The US-Pak Strategic Dialogue was initiated during the first term of the Obama Administration during the tenure of Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State.
In 2010, there were three rounds of Strategic Dialogue between both sides.
It was interrupted in 2011 and 2012 due to the strain in bilateral relationship, but was officially renewed during Kerry’s visit to Pakistan in August where the two sides announced that they were going to resume this process.
The Dialogue has five sub-components — energy, defense, strategic stability, economic and finance, and law enforcement and counter-terrorism.
During this round of strategic dialogue, the emphasis would be on economic co-operation and security aspect, officials said.
Economic cooperation, officials said, is in many ways the centerpiece and certainly is an area where a good deal has been accomplished and done over the last six or seven months since the new government has taken office in Pakistan.
The security dialogue will focus on issues like reconciliation in Afghanistan and how Pakistan is addressing its own internal security challenges and what if anything the United States can do to help in that regard, the senior State Department official said.
“The point of the dialogue is to both be reflective on what’s happened over the last six months, almost exactly since Secretary Kerry announced August 1st that we were revitalizing this dialogue; look at the work of the working groups including the Energy Working Group that came here in November,” the official said.
Officials said the two countries during the dialogue will announce dates for that Economic Finance Working Group.
On the energy side, besides US assistance, the Obama Administration is looking at regional solutions as well.
“Making sure that Pakistan is well integrated into a regional approach and this includes a USD 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,” the official said.
The US is not looking for specific deliverables at this dialogue, the official said.
“We are 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,” the official said.
Afghanistan and cross-border terrorism would be a major topic of discussion between the two delegations.
“Both Afghanistan and Pakistan face a challenge from cross-border militancy, from Jihadist groups on both sides of the border that transit back and forth and that attack both societies and try to undermine both governments,” the senior State Department official said.