New York: As Pakistan battled growing Taliban insurgency, the US has said the country is at a "critical juncture", but acknowledged that the "trust deficit" between the two sides is holding back their cooperation.
"Pakistan is a nation close to my heart," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at an event to launch American Pakistani Foundation here yesterday.
Warning that Pakistan -- which has witnessed a string of terror attacks in recent weeks as its army fought al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country`s northwest -- is at "a critical juncture," Hillary said, adding, "We all have a stake in Pakistan`s future."
"We (the US) seek not to impose our preferences on Pakistan or to override the government`s judgements or subvert the people`s will. Instead, we want a relationship based on mutual respect and shared responsibility," she said.
"The United States has taken major steps in recent months to support Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, foster economic development, expand opportunity, and defeat the extremist groups who threaten both Pakistan`s security and America`s," she said.
So when people question the US’ commitment, "I point to what we have already done and what we are preparing to do," Hillary said.
During her October trip to Pakistan, she said, she experienced the scepticism felt by many in Pakistan about America`s motives and commitment. "This trust deficit holds us back from working together as well as we could and as well as we must."
"Each of you, and this organisation now, is uniquely positioned to help close that gap by fostering greater understanding between our nations and by contributing in concrete ways to Pakistan`s stability, social, and economic development," Hillary said.
She said that President Barack Obama and his administration have worked hard to change the perception of the US purpose in Pakistan both with words and with deeds.
"One of the main goals of my trip was to reach out to a broad community of Pakistanis, to hear their needs, hopes and concerns, and to ensure that the United States is on the right track in our effort to build a stronger partnership. That is a key goal of the Obama Administration`s foreign policy and it is a personal priority for President Obama and me," she said.
The US, Hillary said, plans to focus more of its assistance on large `signature` projects – not only in energy, but in transportation, agriculture, water, and education as well.
"In order to highlight our partnership, we want to make it clear that the United States is investing in the people of Pakistan. We want to see more children in school.”
"We want to see more mothers given the healthcare they need to bear and raise healthy children. We want to see more young men working towards a better future of peace and stability and prosperity," Hillary said at the event.
The American Pakistani Foundation is co-chaired by ex-secretary of state Colin Powell and former Pakistan premier Moeen Qureshi.
"Earlier tonight (on Friday) I met one of President Obama`s college roommates who invited President Obama to Pakistan all those years ago, and his face just lights up when he talks about that trip, and the friendships that he had, and the homes that he was welcomed into. So we want this to be person-to-person," Hillary said.
She recalled that she made five visits to Pakistan as First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State. "I have a number of my close staff who have Pakistani heritage."
"I was honoured as Senator of this great state (of New York) to represent the largest community of Pakistani Americans in the United States. And I have learnt first hand what a special country Pakistan is – a place rich with history and culture, blessed with natural beauty, and home to people of unforgettable warmth and strength," she said
As Senator first, and now as Secretary, Hillary said she has benefited in her job from the advice and insights of Pakistani-Americans on how the United States can do a better job of working with Pakistan across a range of issues, from fighting extremists to strengthening regional stability to meeting the needs of the Pakistani people.
"And I know that others in Washington and in the Obama administration feel the same," she observed.
The American Pakistan Foundation, she said, represents a new potential for this community`s impact to multiply. "By harnessing your energy and coordinating your efforts, even more people can benefit. But more than that, a very clear message can be sent from right here back to Pakistan that we are in this together."
"It is not just the United States Government, which has policies and strategies, but it is the hearts of Pakistani Americans and other Americans that are going to be put to work on behalf of our common mission," Hillary said.
"... When president (John F) Kennedy and Irish president Eamon de Valera launched the American Irish Foundation in 1963, they hoped to foster closer connections between Irish
Americans and their ancestral home.”
"But the Foundation`s membership and mission expanded over the years, and today, after merging with the Ireland Fund, it is the nation`s – and the world`s – largest private organisation supporting economic and social development in Ireland," she said.
During the 30 years of the troubled and horrible consequences of the killings and the disruption that ensued, this foundation funded by and motivated by Irish Americans who believed there could be a better day was often the only body that could speak to both communities, that could go into a Catholic neighbourhood or a Protestant neighbourhood and meet people and listen to people.
And it created a foundation for the peace that eventually occurred, she noted. "In time, I hope that this foundation will also serve as a model for effective, far-reaching philanthropy that complements and improves work of government.”
"Because, you know so well, peace and prosperity cannot be pursued only in the marble halls of Washington or Islamabad, but in boardrooms and classrooms, mosques and churches and synagogues, public squares and private homes – and on evenings like these," Hillary said.