By Arun Kumar, Washington, Jan 28 IANS | 8 months ago

Pakistan opened the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue resumed after a gap of three years with a complaint that its "legitimate concerns" are not conveyed to India with the same intensity as New Delhi's to Islamabad.


Meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department Monday, Pakistan Prime Minister's advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, also sought to suggest that only the resolution of the Kashmir dispute would result in achieving nomalisation of relations with India.

The joint statement issued after the daylong US-Pakistan dialogue made no reference to either Islamabad's grouse about a "lot of pressure" being "exerted on Pakistan on issues of concern to India" or the Kashmir issue, which the US has time and again acknowledged as a bilateral issue between the two South Asian neighbours.

But the US did welcome "steps taken by Pakistan and India to improve their relations" with a recognition of its "potential for enhanced stability and prosperity," for the people of the two countries.

Kerry and Aziz "also recognized the potential for enhanced stability and prosperity from improved bilateral relations between Pakistan and India, benefiting the lives of citizens on both sides of the border," the joint statement said.

"Toward that end, the United States welcomed (Pakistan) Prime Minister (Nawaz) Sharif's vision for a peaceful neighbourhood and efforts for the economic uplift of the people of the region, including steps taken by Pakistan and India to improve their relations."

The joint statement also "condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations" with Kerry expressing "appreciation for the steps taken by Pakistan to combat terrorism."

"The United States and Pakistan renewed their common resolve to promote peace, stability, and transparency throughout the region and to eliminate the threats posed by extremism and terrorism," it said.

"Recognizing the paramount importance of regional stability," Kerry and Aziz "stressed that a peaceful, stable, independent, and united Afghanistan is in the interest of the region, and affirmed the important role of countries in the region in supporting Afghanistan's progress toward stability and prosperity."

"Both sides emphasized their support for a policy of non-interference in Afghanistan, including by all countries of the region," the statement added.

Earlier in his opening statement at the start of the dialogue Aziz said "the most important prerequisite for a strategic partnership" was "mutual trust at all levels"

"The second most important element from our perspective is the expectation that US will not look at Pakistan from the two specific lenses of Afghanistan and terrorism," he said suggesting these "legitimate US concerns" must be "balanced by giving due importance to Pakistan's own security concerns."

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

"The overwhelming majority of the people in Pakistan support the normalization of our relations with India and believe that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute would result in achieving this goal," he said.

"The prime minister's bold vision of normalizing relations with India is being pursued with full commitment," he added.

Later at a dinner for the visiting Pakistani delegation at the Pakistani embassy, Deputy Secretary of State, Heather Higginbottom said the US saw "great potential to develop mutually beneficial economic ties" among Central and South Asian countries.

"In this regard, we encourage steps to increase regional trade, including with India. Steps that increase regional trade support the New Silk Road vision of an economically integrated region," she said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

(Posted on 28-01-2014)

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