Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday reiterated its
demand for institutionalising intelligence and security
cooperation with the US in the war on terror to address the
mistrust that has characterised relations since the covert
American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.
President Asif Ali Zardari raised the issue of
institutionalizing mutual cooperation during a meeting with
Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate and
ranking member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.
Zardari called for "specifying clear and unambiguous
terms of engagements in the war against the militants in order
to avoid adverse impacts on bilateral relations owing to
difference of opinion and stances on various issues".
The two sides need to build a "framework for an enduring
strategic partnership", he said.
Both countries need to work "more closely in
institutionalising the mutual cooperation" and to cement
relations based on "mutual interest and mutual respect",
Against the backdrop of mounting tensions triggered by
the raid against bin Laden and the strained relations between
the spy agencies of the US and Pakistan, Zardari had raised
the need for "clear terms of engagement" for the first time
during a meeting with US Special Representative Marc Grossman
on August 1.
He had then said that the terms of engagement should be
agreed upon beforehand so that "conflicting positions and
unilateral actions did not adversely impact on bilateral
Zardari had also warned that "wrong plugs may be pulled
at the wrong times by any side" in the absence of
The two countries have grappled with mistrust and
tensions that have affected the campaign against militants and
US aid for Pakistan.
Washington recently announced it was withholding USD 800
million in military aid for Islamabad. The tensions have also
affected the Strategic Dialogue between the two sides.
After Pakistani authorities recently imposed restrictions
on the movement of American diplomats, the US warned it could
retaliate by putting in place similar measures for Pakistani
Sources said McCain raised the matter during his meeting
with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and asked the Pakistani
side not to insist on American diplomats obtaining "no
objection certificates" for their movements.
During his meeting with Zardari, McCain discussed
Pakistan-US relations, the war on terror and the regional
situation, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
Zardari said Pakistan wanted to build a long-term,
sustainable and multi-dimensional relationship with the US
"marked by mutual understanding of each others` interest,
mutual trust and respect".
"The war against terror was a long drawn war. It was
important that root causes of militancy and reasons for drift
towards extremism were also addressed," Zardari said.
A multi-pronged strategy encompassing socio-economic,
political and educational measures and judicious use of power
could address the challenge of militancy and militant mindset,
Pakistan had suffered economic losses of USD 68 billion
and lost 35,000 people in this fight and is "determined to
pursue this war till its logical conclusion", Zardari said.
Zardari also raised the issue of recent moves in the US
Congress to reduce aid under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act.
Gilani told McCain that Pakistan wants to have an
enduring partnership with the US and the "relationship should
go beyond cooperation on terrorism".
Gilani said he would welcome the visit by US Secretary of
State Hilary Clinton.
McCain acknowledged that US-Pakistan relations "had seen
difficult times in the past" but made it clear that it is "not
in the US national interest to abandon Pakistan once again".