Washington, Jan 28 IANS | 9 months ago

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that he has been working toward a "true partnership" with Pakistan since taking office a year ago.

The top American envoy made the remarks as he reopened the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue at the State Department with Sartaj Aziz, the adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national security and foreign affairs, Xinhua reported.

"We all know there've been occasional hiccups and challenges, but we really believe that there are fundamental interests that we need to unite around, and particularly in economic and security spheres," Kerry said.

The dialogue was initiated in 2010 and three sessions were held in quick succession in March, July and October that year, but had been held off since over disputes including a unilateral US military raid that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in 2011.

"I think many of you know this, but building stronger ties with the people of Pakistan -- I emphasise, with the people of Pakistan broadly writ -- has been a personal commitment of mine for some period of time," Kerry said.

"Particularly since I was nominated by President (Barack) Obama to serve as secretary of state, I've been pleased to work to elevate this relationship to a true partnership," he added.

Washington-Islamabad ties have warmed since Sharif took over the premiership in May 2013, and Kerry made a trip to the South Asian nation in August.

Sharif met with Obama at the White House in October that year over counterterrorism, Afghanistan and trade ties, making him the first Pakistani premier to visit the United States in five years.

Kerry lauded the reform efforts by Sharif and his cabinet, saying, "The United States has no doubt that Prime Minister Sharif 's policies will put Pakistan on a path towards a more prosperous future, and we fully support his goal of making Pakistan's marketplace a tiger economy for the 21st century."

He talked about "even greater cooperation" with Pakistan on issues like security, energy and education, including Washington's help in adding 1,000 megawatts of capacity to Pakistan's national grid.

"We recognise that Pakistan is a vital partner in supporting a secure Afghanistan," Kerry said, as most American and NATO combat troops are expected to leave Afghanistan by the end of this year after fighting a bloody and costly war there for more than 13 years.

Aziz pledged to help "in every possible way" in facilitating peace and stability in Afghanistan, including through a conciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

"We remain committed to facilitate a smooth and responsible U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan," he said.

He asked for "mutual trust" between Pakistan and the US in their efforts to turn what he called a "transactional relationship" into a "strategic partnership", in which Washington will not "look at Pakistan from the two specific lenses of Afghanistan and terrorism."

The adviser complained about Pakistan's being abandoned after the US withdrew from Afghanistan in the early 1990s following the defeat of the Soviet forces with his country's "active support".

"Similarly, there's a strong perception in Pakistan that a lot of pressure is exerted on Pakistan on issues of concern to India," he said. "Our legitimate concerns are not conveyed to India with the same intensity," he said.

(Posted on 28-01-2014)

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