WASHINGTON (Agencies) - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has defended the Swat Sharia deal, saying it will removed the raison d'etre for the people to ally with the extremists. In an interview published in Pittsburg Tribune Review, an American newspaper, Qureshi downplayed a recent agreement to permit one tribal area (Malakand Division) to follow Shariah - a decision that stunned Washington and sparked talk of appeasing terrorists. Qureshi said the agreement is not with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda but with conservative local leaders. He said the demand for Shariah's swifter justice was popular in Swat Valley. "The objective is to take the wind out of the sails of the militants. ... They were trying to latch onto this popular sentiment," he said. "By doing this, we have removed the raison d'etre for the people to ally with the extremists ... now we can target them in a more focused manner. "Schools have reopened, they have agreed to lay down their arms, agreed to accept the writ of government, and the army has not been pulled out of Swat. And if they fail to live up to their commitments, the (military) operation will start again." Foreign Minister Qureshi, here for talks between US, Afghan and Pakistani officials, said he will return to Pakistan with "a lot of enthusiasm" for the direction of a shared battle. "We have a common objective and we need a common strategy," he told the newspaper after a diplomatic reception for the two foreign delegations at The Willard Hotel. Qureshi said the US "is evolving its strategy" and emphasised its importance "to the two principal players" - his country and Afghanistan - "who are suffering and are victims like you" of terrorism. "If nations that have common values and principles could forge an alliance to defeat fascism and communism," the Foreign Minister declared, "then we can do it again and we can forge an alliance to defeat terrorism." Qureshi told the Paper that the week's trilateral meeting in Washington helped to reduce "the trust deficit" among all three countries. "I think we have taken a big step, a leap forward, in bridging that gap," he said. "... What is so good about this interaction is that this (US) Administration is keen to listen. They do not claim to have all the answers." Qureshi struck a balance on another contentious issue: US aerial strikes against alleged Taliban and Al-Qaeda hideouts in the border region, begun by President Bush and so far continued by President Obama. "The drone attacks gave certain tactical advantage, one recognises that, and they have successfully taken out some high-value targets," the Foreign Minister said. "... Yet what has to be understood is the alienation being caused by the collateral damage that they cause. You cannot win the hearts and minds of people by alienating people." Qureshi said military option cannot bring a long-term solution in an area where only 3pc of women and 17pc of men can read. "When force is required and when it is necessary, it will be used," he said. But "reconciliation, social-economic development, political engagement - these are the prongs that need to be utilised to reach out to the people and win them over, and we aim to do that." The United States has offered $750 million in economic aid for the tribal region, but its implementation has been hampered by the deadly unrest. Strains aside, Qureshi said "we have been friends and allies for over five decades." "Pakistan was instrumental in helping the United States of America in defeating the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan," he said, and "contributed significantly to the fight against extremism and terrorism in human and economic terms. "We have lost more soldiers than the coalition forces put together in Afghanistan." Still, he is optimistic: "I think collectively we can defeat the enemy, which is terrorism."