‘US-Pak trust deficit extends beyond govt-level’

‘US-Pak trust deficit extends beyond govt-level’The United States and Pakistan will hold their first meeting of the upgraded strategic dialogue on March 24 in Washington.

In the words of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, “The objective of strategic dialogue is to enhance people-to-people relationships, which can bridge the trust deficit”.

For Pakistan, the meet holds great significance as it seeks to develop an enduring framework for long-term ties with the US. The Pakistani delegation at the strategic dialogue would be led by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head the US’ side.
In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, Daniel Markey, an expert on South Asia, discusses the objective of the upcoming US-Pakistan strategic dialogue.

Daniel Markey is Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has also served on the State Department`s Policy Planning Staff from 2003 to 2007.

Kamna: What does the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, which is scheduled to take place on March 24, aim to achieve?

Daniel: The Pakistanis have been eager to promote a senior-level bilateral dialogue, as a tangible and symbolic demonstration of the importance of the US-Pakistan relationship. There have been a great number of US-Pakistan meetings over the past several years, so this is a formalisation and elevation of dialogues that are happening in other formats. I would also note that several of the (US President Barack) Obama administration`s initial diplomatic interactions with Islamabad took place in a trilateral format (including Afghanistan), which I believe the Pakistanis felt as a sign of being diminished in Washington`s eyes. While that was not in fact the case; these meetings can help to put that concern to rest.
Kamna: What all issues are expected to be discussed between the two sides?

Daniel: I`m not sure of the exact agenda items. Obviously the major issues – terrorism, regional stability (including Afghanistan), economic assistance and development – will all be covered, as well as, I would imagine, a tour of other issues of mutual interest, from issues before the UN to the Obama administration`s plans for the nuclear summit.

Kamna: Will the dialogue help Pakistan reduce trust deficit with the US?

Daniel: It should be one part of that process. Routine interactions between senior officials are helpful. Obviously, the trust deficit extends beyond the government-government relationship, so more work will be needed. I believe that the combination of military and civilian leaders on both sides represents a very good step.
Kamna: Do you think Pakistan will take this opportunity to call for civil nuclear cooperation and reimbursement of war bills?

Daniel: I think that the Pakistani government is keen to find a way to escape from its unusual status in the global non-proliferation regime; and to the extent that the United States is a gatekeeper of that regime, Pakistan will seek its help. And yes, the Pakistanis are likely to discuss the coalition support funds used by the United States to reimburse for military operations related to the war in Afghanistan.