WASHINGTON - National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz has arrived in Washington to lead Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue with Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, as the two countries look to finalise a blueprint aimed at bolstering future relationship.
The top-level Pakistani delegation includes Minister for Defence, Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif and senior officials.
The American interlocutors will include senior level representatives from the Department of Energy, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, USAID, US Trade Representative and from the Treasury.
The officials will work to “put together a blueprint of where we can take this relationship over the course of the next six months to a year,” a State Department official said ahead of the revived Ministerial dialogue that will focus on wide-ranging economic, energy and security areas.
Meanwhile, a report in the American media saw the dialogue as offering an opportunity for the United States and Pakistan to start a new chapter in their relationship, affected by years of Afghan war controversies.
The Voice of America noted that the war in Afghanistan strained the bilateral relationship. But now the US is drawing down its troops from Afghanistan, and Secretary of State John Kerry says it’s time to resume a strategic dialogue.
The broadcast service also quoted a statement of John Kerry in which he said the US is committed to a long-term relationship with Pakistan.
The US State Department officials noted on Friday that Pakistan and the United States have greatly improved their relationship since 2011.
“I think the relationship has become quite good between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The Prime Minister had an excellent visit (in October 2013) here, a very comprehensive set of meetings,” a senior State Department official said.
Similarly, the official noted, Secretary Kerry had a good visit to Pakistan and established a good relationship with the National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz.
“So at a personal level I think people are comfortable with each other, they have gotten to know each other, and the dialogue can be very candid, a first-name basis sort of thing.”
Afghanistan will also be a major topic of discussion, amid uncertainty over the fate of bilateral security agreement between Washington and Kabul and the future of that country. But the US officials state that Washington-Islamabad relations are independent of current Afghan situation.
“We have a direct bilateral economic relationship with Pakistan. We’re Pakistan’s largest market. We have an interest in Pakistan’s economic development. And we have an interest in Pakistan’s domestic security.
Pakistan is a large populous, nuclear-armed nation, and it is important that its Constitutional order and democratic processes continue to be strengthened.
We have made a major investment in that. The Kerry-Lugar-Berman money is not tied to Afghanistan,” a senior official said.