|Pak-US ties will be tested in future: Clinton|
09 July 2012
US looks to Islamabad to play brokering role between Taliban, militant elements; Hina accepts US invitation to visit Washington; Krishna provides ‘evidence’ of terror activities on Pak soil
TOKYO: United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday met Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar at the Tokyo Summit on Afghanistan and expressed her belief that Pak-US relations were witnessing a marked improvement and revival after Pakistan agreed to reopen Nato supply lines last week, adding that the relationship would certainly be tested in the future.
A visibly spirited Hillary informed reporters that talks with Hina Rabbani Khar had been fruitful, and had cleansed the air of any bitterness that may have existed before, adding that both parties were now ready and willing to face recurring challenges. “We endeavour to take full advantage of the positive outcome of the new era of friendship and cooperation, which would safeguard the interests of both countries,” she declared.
The top US diplomat told reporters that both Washington and Islamabad had been encouraged by the agreement to reopen the suspended Nato routes. Clinton’s apology for Nato’s killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November ended Pakistan’s seven-month freeze on Nato supplies from passing through the country. “We are both encouraged that we’ve been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so we can focus on the many challenges ahead of us,” Clinton told reporters.
During their one-hour meeting, Clinton urged Khar to put pressure on the Haqqani network, according to a senior US official. Clinton also stressed that both the United States and Pakistan desired to build on last week’s agreement with greater counterterrorism and economic cooperation.
The secretary of state told reporters that she and the Pakistani foreign minister had also discussed stalled Afghan reconciliation efforts: “We want to use the positive momentum generated by our recent agreement to take tangible steps on our many shared, core interests,” she affirmed.
The current Pak-US relationship remained challenging for both sides despite the reopening of Pakistani land routes to supply US troops in Afghanistan, she said. The most important of these, she added, was fighting the militant groups that used Pakistan as a rear base to attack American troops and jeopardise the future of Afghanistan. “[Foreign Minister Khar and I] focused on the necessity of defeating the terror networks that threaten the stability of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the interests of the United States,” Clinton said.
Pakistan’s closure of supply routes cost the United States at least $700 million, as Nato forces were forced to reroute supplies to the more expensive northern routes. “I have no reason to believe that it will not continue to raise hard questions for us both,” she said. “But it is something that is in the interests of the United States as well as the interests of Pakistan,” she observed when asked about the future of the relationship.
The top diplomats also spoke about the possibility of enhancing Pak-US economic ties to make the relationship more defined by trade than aid. She conceded, however, that there were lingering challenges, terming the bilateral dynamic a “challenging but essential relationship.”
The secretary of state, who joined Hina Rabbani Khar and Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul for a three-way meeting later Sunday, said the United States was counting on Pakistan to help convince the Taliban and other groups fighting the Afghan government to halt violence and enter political dialogue. “America understands that Pakistan would be willing to allow the participation of Taliban and other militant elements, in any multi-faceted dialogue(s) between warring parties,” she said.
Clinton, Khar and Zalmai Rassoul, smiled and laughed as they staged a three-way handshake for photographers after their meeting.According to a joint statement issued by the secretary of state and the foreign minister of Pakistan and Afghanistan, “Capitalising on the opportunity afforded by the Tokyo Conference, which represents the culmination of a period of intensive engagement between Afghanistan and the international community — we convened the first ministerial-level Core Group meeting today. We reaffirmed that the purpose of the Core Group is to enhance cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States to support an Afghan peace and reconciliation process, and further affirmed that Afghanistan should be a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous nation living in a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous region supported by enduring partnerships with the international community.”
During the meeting, the Pakistani foreign minister accepted Hillary Clinton’s invitation to visit the United States.The Pakistani foreign minister also met her Indian counterpart SM Krishna on the sidelines of the conference. Talks between the two foreign ministers covered mutual and bilateral issues such as defeating terrorism as well as the recent meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. Both Khar and Krishna agreed on the importance of ensuring the continuity of the composite dialogue as and discussed progress made on confidence building measures.
India on Sunday provided more evidence to Pakistan about terrorist activities currently taking place on Pakistani soil against India. Krishna gave this evidence, based mostly on disclosures made by Mumbai terror suspect Abu Hamza, to his Pakistani counterpart during their meeting, according to Indian media reports.
Khar responded, however, by saying Pakistan did not believe that its agencies were involved in perpetrating terror strikes against India, something which her foreign secretary Jalil Jilani had reiterated earlier during his official visit to New Delhi.
SM Krishna also appealed to Hina Rabbani Khar for the early release and repatriation of Sarabjit Singh, who is serving death sentence in Pakistan, on humanitarian grounds, marking the second time in less than a week that India has taken up the issue with Pakistan. The Indian foreign minister also thanked Pakistan for releasing Surjeet Singh earlier this month.
The pending visa agreement to facilitate trade between the two countries was also taken up. The foreign ministers also discussed their upcoming meeting due to be held in Islamabad later this summer.
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