US, Pakistan likely to revive strategic talks next month
WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan are trying to revive their annual strategic dialogue, disrupted by recent tensions between the two allies, and may announce the renewal at a high-level meeting in New York next month, official sources told Dawn.
US and Pakistani officials are also looking at the possibility of a meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the 67th UN General Assembly next month.
President Zardari is expected to arrive in New York on Sept 23, with a delegation which will include senior officials who specialise in US-Pakistan relations. Although, he is coming to attend the UN General Assembly, reviving relations with the United States will be the main focus of three-day visit.
Both sides believe that the most effective way of reviving bilateral ties is to restart the strategic dialogue which got derailed when relations between the two countries reached almost a breaking point last year.
Both countries have taken a number of remedial steps, the most significant being the reopening of ground supply routes to Afghanistan.
“We have been working well with Pakistan in trying to look again at what we can do now that the GLOCs (supply lines) are open to strengthen our counter-terrorism cooperation,” said US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland while commenting on the state of relations between the two countries.
The third ministerial session of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue was held in Washington in October 2010.
The next session was to be held in Islamabad but it was postponed due to a rapid deterioration in bilateral ties, which began with the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad and worsened when another raid killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
The dialogue includes 11 core groups: Economy and Trade, Energy, Defence, Security, Strategic Stability and Non-Proliferation, Law Enforcement and Counter-terrorism, Science and Technology, Education, Agriculture, Water, Health and Communication and Public Diplomacy.
Diplomatic sources say that it may not be possible to revive all these groups but non-security groups may be revived next month. Reconvening security-related groups may take longer.
The groups most likely to be resurrected include those dealing with agriculture, energy, trade and water resources.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is expected to arrive in Washington in the third week of September for talks on these and other issues.
After her talks in Washington, she will join President Zardari in New York for possible talks between US and Pakistani leaders.
If both sides decide to hold the 4th ministerial session of the strategic dialogue in New York, then Foreign Minister Khar and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead their delegations in those meetings.
US officials pointed out that despite tensions, the core groups continued to meet but the minister-level talks have not been held since 2010.
The United States also holds annual strategic dialogue with India and Afghanistan.