WASHINGTON: Pakistan will preserve its national interests as it partners with the United States in fighting the terrorist threat to civilization, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on the eve of the strategic partnership dialogue between the two nations.The top Pakistani diplomat also renewed Islamabad’s desire to seek a civilian nuclear technology deal from the United States as part of efforts to meet his country’s fast-expanding energy requirements.In a wide-ranging speech at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics in Boston, he reminded the distinguished gathering of the festering Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, and urged Washington to help resolve it in a bid to “remove one more source of Muslim discontent and anger, taking oxygen out of the terrorists’ fire.”The foreign minister will co-chair with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the strategic dialogue on bilateral cooperation in vast array of fields, developments in the region and security issues, including efforts to deal with militants along the Afghan border.“What we are trying to create is a long-term, mature and mutually beneficial partnership,” he said,Qureshi, who touched on periods of intense engagement and estrangement between Pkistan and the United States in the past, welcomed recent moves towards fostering a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.
“That dialogue, and the coordination of our policies, will define the direction and future of our bilateral relationship; as well as the success of the containment of terrorism and, quite possibly, the very future of the region,” Qureshi said as he pressed for preferrential trade access for Pakistani products and understanding of it’s security considerations.At the same time, the foreign minister made it clear in his speech that Pakistan is an “ally and not a satellite.”
Islamabad’s chief diplomat listed out Pakistan’s achievements under the democratic government including the effective fight against terrorists, saying the country’s security forces have cleared the northwestern Swat region of Taliban and launched operation against militants in South Waziristan tribal area.“We will fight together with you for our common goals and ends, especially in our joint effort to destroy the terrorist cancer that threatens all of civilization. But we are first and foremost, like every nation on earth, committed to preserving our national interest.”
Pakistan, the foreign minister elaborated, lives in a rough neighborhood, where it has faced a hostile India on its eastern border and suffered from consequences of successive Afghan conflicts on its western border.“We live in a rough neighborhood and we will live in that rough neighborhood even if you leave. We have to prepare for all eventualities. We have to protect our borders. You have to respect our sovereignty,” said the foreign minister, who spoke in the backdrop of recent tensions over cross-border strikes by NATO planes.The foreign minister referred to a mix of challenges and benefits in the current complex regional scenario, where the two countries have been working closely in the fight against terrorists since 9/11 attacks on the United States.
“You have to realize the political price you pay in Pakistan, and that my government pays as your friend, from the almost daily drone assaults on our territory.“And if unmanned drone attacks were not difficult enough for our people to absorb, the recent attacks by NATO helicopters in Pakistan, killing Pakistani soldiers, were nothing short of infuriating our people.”In the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan, Qureshi noted,Kerry-Lugar economic aid measure is one step forward, massive flood relief is one step forward, “but drone and helicopter attacks on our territory and people are two steps back.”
If the markets of Europe and America were open to Pakistani exports, the Pakistani people would have far more faith in their government, support for democratic values, and most of all, a stake in the success of their country, he argued.
“This is the kind of support we need from you. We need trade, not just aid. We need MOUs, not IOUs. We need your Congress to pass legislation creating Reconstruction Opportunity Zones. We need your Congress to pass a Free Trade Treaty with Pakistan.”
Islamabad also wants the US to implement one of the key provisions of an early draft of Kerry-Lugar that would provide one billion dollars in additional economic and social assistance each year if the US President can certify that Pakistan is a civil government and a democracy.Turning to the impact of Pakistan-India lingering disputes on the region, he said:
“In the plethora of problems before us we have to realistically understand that improved relations between the two nuclear armed powers of South Asia—Pakistan and India—is the missing key to regional peace.”The issues between India and Pakistan cannot be wished away, he underscored in response to a question.For decades India has tried to convince the world that unrest in Kashmir is a product of Pakistani intervention. But over the last year, over the last bloody months and weeks, everyone, including India, now understands that the insurrection in Kashmir and Jammu is a long-neglected problem that is not caused by Pakistani intervention, but rather Indian occupation, he told the gathering.
“Pakistan views the prevailing situation in the Occupied Kashmir with grave concern. It has resulted in deaths of more than 100 Kashmiris including women and children. Hundreds have been injured and thousands arrested.” He noted that men and women of goodwill, in both India and Pakistan, know that this issue must be addressed once and for all if the Kashmir time bomb was to be defused. Qureshi sought Washington’s help towards resolution of the decades-old Kashmir conflict.
“On its part, Pakistan is willing to engage India in a comprehensive dialogue to normalize relations between the two countries, by finding amicable solution to all outstanding issues, including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, taking oxygen out of the terrorists’ fire.”On Afghanistan, the foreign minister said Pakistan wants a peaceful and stable neighbor on its western border.“We are moving from suspicion to trust and confidence and reached transit trade agreement,” he said of recent progress in Pakistan Afghanistan relations.“There is a new realization, we need one another for regional stability.” The foreign minister defended the role of Pakistani intelligence service ISI in response to a question, saying no other organization has captured more al-Qaeda fighters.In answer to another question, Qureshi said Pakistan needs a friendly Afghanistan but ‘it is not for us to impose’ will on the Afghans. He rejected the contention that ISI is guiding Afghan reconciliation talks, adding the process is Afghan-led.
“We want to help them help ourselves because our intrests are interlinked, Pakistan is a very important link to Afghanistan.“The ISI is not guiding any talks— it is for Afghans to conduct talks – we will help and facilitate,” he said – App