US, Pakistan working quietly to rebuild ties
WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan are quietly rebuilding their ties after more than a year of unpleasant interruptions, resuming key financial talks in the US capital on Wednesday.
The talks bring both Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Minister of State Salim H. Mandviwala to Washington with a large delegation of senior officials from the Finance Ministry and related departments for the three-day talks.
The meetings in Washington precede a series of talks in December in Islamabad where the US-Pakistan Defence Working Groups meets on Dec 3. On Dec 7, the working group on energy will discuss various proposals for helping Pakistan deal with its acute energy shortage which has crippled the country’s economy.
Another equally important meeting starts in Islamabad on Dec 10, when experts from both countries meet for talks on nuclear security and strategic stability.
All these groups are part of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue which was interrupted when Pakistan arrested a CIA contractor for killing two Pakistanis in Lahore.The bilateral relations received a big jolt when the United States raided a compound in Abbottabad without informing Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden.
Another major blow came in November last year, when a US air raid killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Salala, close to the Afghan border.
The ties, however, began to improve when the United States apologised over the Salala incident early this year and Pakistan reopened Nato supply routes closed in retaliation to the Nato attack.
Last month, Interior Minister Rehman Malik came to Washington for a meeting on law-enforcement and now the finance minister is coming for talks aimed at improving economic ties between the two countries.
The delegation will hold its first meeting hours after arrival with Elizabeth Littlefield, who heads the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
Their next meeting is with Deputy US Trade Representative Ambassador Demetrios Marantis on Wednesday Afternoon.
On Thursday, they meet Deputy Secretary of Treasury Neal Wolin and have lunch at US Chamber of Commerce.
They also have meetings with World Bank and IMF officials the same day.
But their most important engagement in Washington, the meeting of the bilateral economic group, begins on Friday.
The same day, the finance minister and United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Tom Nides will also have a one-to-one meeting.
Mr Nides will lead the US delegation at the economic talks.