Pak seeks US assistance in nuclear, drone technology



Islamabad: Pakistan's top leadership on Tuesday sought American assistance in the civilian nuclear field and the transfer of drone technology, saying such steps would help address misperceptions about the US and bridge the trust deficit between the two sides.

During a meeting with visiting National Intelligence Director Dennis C Blair, President Asif Ali Zardari called on the US to provide assistance in civil nuclear technology to help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis and bridge the trust deficit between the two countries.

Zardari also sought the "early transfer of drone technology to Pakistan" so that the country's security forces could use unmanned spy planes to target militants.

Such operations by Pakistani troops would have "wider public acceptability" than the drone strikes carried out by the US, he said.

"US drone attacks on our soils not only infringe upon Pakistan's sovereignty but also undermine the national consensus (for) the war on militancy," Zardari said.

The President also stressed on the need for "working on a counter-terrorism strategy within the agreed parameters and creating an effective intelligence-sharing mechanism between the two countries".

He asked the US to strengthen and enhance Pakistan's counter-terrorism capabilities through "timely assistance and necessary tools and equipment".

During a separate meeting with Blair, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the success of the forthcoming Pakistan-US strategic dialogue "would be greatly beneficial for bridging the trust deficit and addressing the misperceptions about Pakistan-US relations".

Gilani also underscored the need for "concrete and visible signs of implementation" of commitments in identified sectors.

The Pakistani leaders raised several other issues with Blair, including the need to review the new US screening regime for Pakistani travellers, the need to expedite US legislation to set up Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in the tribal belt, increased market access for Pakistani exporters, the granting of a special dispensation for Pakistani textile products and the honouring of pledges made by the world community last year to accelerate the pace of rebuilding and development of militancy-hit areas.

Zardari said Pakistan had suffered losses of over USD 35 billion during the past eight years due to the fight against militancy.

Referring to the regional situation, he said Pakistan "has legitimate interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and welcomes international assistance for this".

On the other hand, Gilani said the US and the world community should forward to help Pakistan in the immediate development of areas cleared of militants.

This is "crucial to retain the national consensus and public support in sustaining the campaign against terror", he added.

Gilani said the peace and stability of Afghanistan "was intrinsically linked to peace in Pakistan and hence his government would fully support the Afghan government's strategy for reconciliation".

However, greater coordination in these efforts is a pre-requisite for the success of the strategy, he said. Gilani also said Pakistan would like to have better relations with India by "addressing the core issues between the two countries in the interest of bringing the war against terror to its logical conclusion".

Blair appreciated Pakistan's struggle against militancy and reiterated the US administration's commitment to work closely with the country in this regard.

He expressed satisfaction at the cooperation and coordination between the two countries in intelligence-sharing through which Pakistan and the allied forces "had gained remarkable successes in the recent past".

He said both sides should adopt a "realistic approach" in the strategic dialogue to achieve desired results as the last three rounds of the parleys "had not helped much in addressing crucial issues and it was time that both sides proceeded with the dialogue (while) aiming at achieving concrete results".

PTI