ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan are planning a ministerial session of their Strategic Dialogue in early 2015, a senior American official said. Stressing that dialogue and bilateral cooperation will continue and increase, well beyond the ongoing transitions in Afghanistan.

"We are planning for a Strategic Dialogue Ministerial session early in 2015. Our constructive engagement with Pakistan has garnered results, and will continue to be an important component of our national security strategy going forward," Jarrett Blanc, Principal Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a Congressional hearing.

At the State Department, Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that Secretary of State John Kerry is eager to visit Pakistan next year.

"I don't have any trips to announce at this point in time.
I know the Secretary's eager to get there in 2015. So hopefully, we'll have something to announce in the coming weeks," the spokesperson said when asked about dates for the U.S.-Pakistan dialogue and Secretary Kerry's travel to Pakistan.

Blanc noted at a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa that Pakistan has made democratic and economic progress, and also launched a major operation in North Waziristan, which has disrupted militant activity.

Referring to this year's protests, he said, Pakistan’s democratic institutions appear to be weathering the storm. "In the aggregate, it is a positive trajectory, both in terms of Pakistan and our bilateral cooperation."

Elaborating the importance of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, the official said it is the mechanism that underpins intensive cooperation on the shared interests, from counterterrorism to energy to economic growth and defense.  

"We expect that this dialogue and cooperation will not only continue, but increase, well beyond the transition in Afghanistan. We also recognize that our engagement with Pakistan is critical to advancing our regional objectives," he said.