US, Pak seek to improve ‘strained’ bilateral ties
Washington: Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir will visit Washington later this month on the invitation of the United States, for crucial talks to mend bilateral ties tattered by the drone campaign, visa-related administrative issues and the latest bi-annual assessment by the White House to Congress.
Bashir and his delegation would meet American officials at the State Department on April 20-21, US diplomatic sources told Dawn.
Both sides are expected to prepare the agenda for the next round of US-Pak strategic dialogue likely to be held in Islamabad in May.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to lead the American team to the talks, and Pakistani officials are hoping that the dialogue will pave the way for President Asif Ali Zardari’s first official visit to Washington in June.
“We obviously remain engaged with Pakistan in the struggle against terrorism and extremism. And our counter-terrorism efforts are critical to that progress,” said Mark Toner, the State Department’s deputy spokesman.
“We’re also trying to work with Pakistan to build their institutions and strengthen their democracy in order to create a better, more prosperous future for the Pakistani people,” Toner added.
US-Pak relations, which had become strained after the detention of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Pakistan, received another jolt earlier this week when a White House report painted a grim picture of the deficits in Pakistan’s counter-insurgency efforts.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tehmina Janjua termed the references to Pakistan in the report as “unwarranted” and said emphatically that the country did “not entirely share the US assessment”.
Toner refused to comment on the Pakistani response, but noted that the US had “talked about some of the challenges that they face” and underlined the “existential threats” that Pakistan faced from terrorism.
“And we’re trying to work with them in a cooperative fashion to tackle those challenges,” he added.
Other US officials, while noting that the media only had highlighted certain aspects of the White House assessment, pointed out that the report also stated that the US was “laying the foundation for a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and trust through increased dialogue, improved cooperation, and enhanced exchange and assistance programmes” in Pakistan.
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