U.S. Secretary of State and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave these remarks after their Washington, DC meeting on March 24, 2010, at the start of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Well, it is such a pleasure once again to welcome the foreign minister and his delegation to the State Department for this latest round of our meetings and for this beginning of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, the first ever held at the ministerial level on both sides. That fact, along with the unprecedented participation of senior leaders across both of our governments, reflects the importance that we place on this relationship. These meetings are an opportunity to engage directly on the full range of issues that are matters of both common concern and shared responsibility, and to produce concrete results.
Today, we discussed our shared goals: to protect our citizens and our countries from the violent extremism that threatens us both, to see Pakistan prosper as a strong democracy in a stable region, to cooperate on issues that improve the daily lives of the Pakistani people, and so much else. We have made it very clear that this Strategic Dialogue is in Pakistan’s interests and in the United States’ interests. And that is why what we’re doing here today is so critical.
I want to thank the foreign minister for his candor and his commitment to finding solutions to our common challenges. We have listened and we will continue to listen. And we want to demonstrate by both word and deed our respect for Pakistan’s concerns and ideas, and share our own.
This is a dialogue that flows in both directions. We recognize that our success will be measured in the results that our citizens see in their daily lives. This begins with security. We discussed Pakistan’s national security priorities, ongoing counterinsurgency operations, and long-term military modernization and recapitalization efforts. Pakistan is on the front line of confronting the violent extremism that threatens us all. And Pakistan’s civilians and security forces continue to bear the brunt of that fight. We respect the sacrifices that Pakistan has made in combating terrorists who seek to undermine its stability and undo its progress. And we pay tribute to those who have fallen, both those in uniform and the many innocent civilians killed or injured.
In our discussions today, I underscored the commitment of the United States to stand with Pakistan as it confronts its challenges. And the foreign minister and I also reaffirmed our support for the people and Government of Afghanistan as they continue to rebuild their country after decades of war and to overcome violence and insurgency.
But our relationship extends far beyond security, as does the scope of this dialogue. As demonstrated by the landmark Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation, which supports Pakistan’s economic and social development goals with $7.5 billion in assistance over five years, the United States is committed to advancing the long-term aspirations of the Pakistani people for a more peaceful and prosperous future. President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, and Foreign Minister Qureshi deserve our thanks for their work to make Kerry-Lugar-Berman a reality and to ensure that its benefits reach the Pakistani people. I also want to give Foreign Minister Qureshi personal credit, not just for launching this dialogue but for ensuring that we make tangible progress and produce real results on matters of importance.
Our working groups were hard at work today. First, we are cooperating to boost economic development on a number of tracks. Deputy Secretary Lew will sign a letter of intent to upgrade significant road infrastructure in the Northwest. We are taking concrete steps to help Pakistan boost exports of agricultural products and to improve agricultural infrastructure. As the foreign minister said today in our opening dialogue, 60 to 70 percent of the people of Pakistan rely on agriculture. And therefore, we ignore agriculture at our peril. You cannot have prosperity if you do not go to where the people live and work, how they make an income, how they feed themselves and their families.
And we are continuing to work for greater market access to our markets for Pakistani products. We continue to collaborate on plans for new water projects, and we’re looking forward to the completion of a transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan that we believe will benefit both countries. As I told the foreign minister, we appreciate Pakistan’s renewed commitment to sustained economic reforms that will provide a foundation for long-term prosperity.
We are working together to ensure that Pakistanis have access to affordable and reliable power, which is essential to funding economic development. When I was in Islamabad in October, we announced a signature energy program, and tomorrow, USAID Administrator Shah and Secretary of Water and Power Rafi will sign implementation agreements for three thermal power station rehabilitation projects that will provide more electricity to more people.
We also discussed the importance of working on a multiyear basis with regard to resource planning. I was pleased to inform the foreign minister that our goal is a multiyear security assistance package, including foreign military financing, based upon identified mutual strategic objectives, which would further strengthen our long-term partnership with Pakistan. We, of course, will work closely with Congress to further develop this commitment.
The United States also remains committed to social protection efforts, such as the Benazir Bhutto Income Support Program for families in vulnerable areas. And we will launch a women in development agenda in our next round of dialogues in Islamabad.
Finally, I am pleased to announce the approval of flight access for Pakistan International Airlines to Chicago, via Barcelona, making it easier for business travelers and families to strengthen the ties between our two countries.
We covered a lot of ground today, but there is so much more to be done. We are going to be working very hard. Our sectoral tracks are going to be meeting again tomorrow and then over the next months in Islamabad. We’re going to be working on people-to-people contacts and programs.
So again, Minister Qureshi, I thank you for your leadership. I thank you for the open, engaged, and results-oriented discussions that we began today. And as I did this morning, I want to speak directly to the people of Pakistan. I’ve been privileged to visit your country over the years, including last fall as Secretary of State. I have learned from your rich history and culture, and I have experienced firsthand the warmth of your hospitality and the strength of your communities.
The dialogue we seek is not only with the Government of Pakistan, but with you, the Pakistani people. And it is a dialogue that I hope will continue growing richer and broader. And we thank you for your attention and your friendship.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: Madam Secretary, thank you. Today, I am a happy man and a satisfied man. I’m satisfied because you’ve finally agreed to many of the things that we’ve been sharing over our discussions in the last two years.
I suggested to Madam Secretary that if you want this relationship to become a partnership, you’ve got to think differently, you’ve got to act differently, and you’ve got to upgrade the level of our engagement. And she agreed, and thank you for that. I suggested to her a new format of our engagement when she was in Islamabad and Ambassador Holbrooke was there – a three-tiered structure of engagement, ministerial level, policy steering group to meet biannually to follow through, and then to expand the sectoral track.
The original – I won’t call it strategic – but the original dialogue that we had in 2006, `7, and `8 had only four tracks. And Madam Secretary, on my request, has agreed to expand the track from four to ten. And why have we expanded those tracks? We have expanded those tracks to make this relationship people-to-people. I wanted to bring in areas that affect the lives of the ordinary people of Pakistan. And when I say I’m happy today, I’m happy because I feel I’ve contributed in redirecting this relationship in line with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan expected a different kind of an approach. The people of Pakistan expected a democracy to treat a democracy differently, and you’ve done so. And you’ve done so. And that is why I am satisfied and that is why I think we are going to move from a relationship to a partnership.
We have been talking about the engagements of the past. How is this engagement different from the past? I think we’ve done three to four things which are important, and I wanted to register them. One, we’ve upgraded the dialogue. Two, we’ve given it a new structure, a new format of engagement. We’ve put in place a mechanism which would ensure follow-up. Because we can meet; if there is no follow-up, there will be no results. And I want this dialogue to be a result-oriented dialogue.
Thirdly, we expanded the sectoral tracks, as I said. And fourthly, we have and you have, your Administration has provided the resources to implement what we agree upon. Now, if we could agree to, we could have great ideas. But if you don’t have the money to implement those ideas, they would be dreams. I want these dreams to be converted to reality, and I think that is happening. And I can see that happening.
I also am happy to share with you that we’ve discussed a number of things. We’ve discussed issues like market access. And I’ve shared with the Secretary how important it is for stabilizing Pakistan’s economy. And one of the ways is through expanded trade, and that can come through market access. The ROZ legislation has been pending. And I must thank you and your Administration for having agreed to give it priority. I understand the health bill took a lot of your attention and a lot of your time, but I think it’s behind us --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: -- and we have to move on. And I think the ROZ legislation is going to be a priority legislation in the days to come.
The CSF funding – at times, as friends and allies, sort of we’ve been prickling over dollars and cents. We’ve agreed to put in place a mechanism which is mutually acceptable, which is transparent, which takes into account accountability, but that delivers and delivers in time. We’ve agreed in this interaction that the substantial sum will be paid to Pakistan by the end of April, and the remaining, hopefully, will be settled by the end of June.
We’ve also agreed to work together with the Congress. Congress is important.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: And I was at the Congress – and let me share it with you. Let me share it with you. I saw a qualitative difference in my engagement with the Congress yesterday, because I remember when I came here for the first time as foreign minister two years ago, everybody said, “You signed the Swat deal? Capitulation. Surrender.” I said, “Hold on, hold on. That’s a tactic. Wait. Wait till you see the results.”
And we have demonstrated the results. The people of Pakistan, the armed forces of Pakistan, have shown the resolve, the determination, and the commitment. And we will win. And we’re going to win in this struggle, because defeat is not an option that we are planning for. And Inshallah, by the grace of God, we have a clear objective, we have a plan, we have a strategy, and that strategy is working. And today, we have a partnership, and hopefully, this partnership will turn the tide in our favor, hopefully in our mutual favor.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: Thank you, ma’am.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, can I quote you --
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll begin with Sue Pleming of Reuters.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, this is for you. Pakistan says that it would like to have a real partnership with the United States with all the perks that come with it. Are you prepared to discuss a civilian nuclear deal such as the one that India has with Pakistan?
And then, Foreign Minister Qureshi, what is currently sort of on your wish list to do all that you need to do in terms of making the border region more secure with Afghanistan? Are you looking for drones, helicopters? What could the United States give you that would really help?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ll go first. We have a broad agenda with many complicated issues like the one you referred to. Discussions are continuing through tomorrow. And while I will not go into details of our bilateral conversations, we’ve said that we will listen to and engage with our Pakistani partners on whatever issues the delegation raises. We’re committed to helping Pakistan meet its real energy needs.
I’m particularly pleased that we are moving forward with $125 million to Pakistan for energy sector projects. That’s an assistance program I announced when I was there in October. And as the foreign minister said, we have followed through. We don’t just make announcements and then forget about them and get the headlines and move on.
So this dialogue that we’re engaged in is helping us build the kind of partnership that can make progress over time on the most complicated of issues.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: Ma’am, we have taken a number of steps that have improved the border situation. Today, if you look at the posts that we have along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and just compare our posts with the posts across the border; if you look at the troops deployed on the western border, this is unprecedented. If you look at the steps taken – if you look at the impact the successful military operations have had on the border movement, you would realize what relief they have provided across the border in Afghanistan. Successful operations in Pakistan against the Taliban have had a significant impact in Afghanistan, and they acknowledge that.
President Karzai was over in Islamabad and we’ve had discussions, and they acknowledge the contribution that Pakistan has made, they acknowledge the contribution that the democratic government has made in improving bilateral relations with Afghanistan. We just talked about the transit trade agreement prior to coming to this conference. We’ve talked about military hardware. You have to realize that we are operating in a completely different theater. The western border, the terrain is completely different. And I’m glad to share with you we’ve agreed to fast-track – to fast-track our requests that have pending for months and years on the transfer of military equipment to Pakistan. So all these steps, I think, will make a qualitative difference to border management.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, P.J. (inaudible) from (inaudible) news. Madam Secretary and foreign minister, whenever relations between America and Pakistan suffer and get strained, both really suffer and then both (inaudible) perhaps what you’ve done (inaudible).
But the question is: How imminent is – are the people of the United States and how important is it for them – and the foreign minister said it’s the people of Pakistan who want to come to this – so people-to-people contact and how imminent has the military chiefs of all the countries – their presence in this, and the reassurances of Ambassador Holbrooke to Pakistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for asking that question because that’s really at the heart of what we hope to achieve. Because I agree with you; we have had a relationship that goes back to the very founding of Pakistan. We’ve had many positive experiences. But to be absolutely, historically accurate, we’ve had setbacks and stresses in our relationship. And I believe strongly that it is important for the United States and Pakistan to remain connected and working together for the betterment of both of our peoples.
So will we have disagreements? Of course. We have disagreements with all of our friends from time to time. Yet we don’t want anything to disrupt or divert our attention from building this relationship into a partnership – as the foreign minister has said, a partnership that really stands the test of time.
So as part of that, we want to ensure that our communication about our work together, our outreach, extends far beyond our governments. We want our private sectors working together much more closely. We think there are many great opportunities for joint ventures and investments. But frankly, we have work to do to explain the opportunities that exist. We want our universities and academic institutions working together. We want to spend time on improving agriculture and healthcare and so much else. We have an exciting presentation between our two information technology representatives about what can be done with greater investment in technology. And who benefits from that more than the individual Pakistani who gets information from a cell phone that helps with mobile banking or provides healthcare information?
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: Telemedicine.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Telemedicine, exactly. So you can see we are very excited because I think both Shah Mehmood and I see this as ultimately about bettering the lives of people. That is what got me into politics. I know that’s what motivates his desires. So we really are looking for more and more ways that we can create those interactions and exchanges between our people, because that’s what this is all about.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: P.J. – P.J., could I respond to what you said? P.J., I was at the Hill yesterday and I share it with you as a fellow Pakistani – the mood was completely different. I’ll say it publicly. It was different. I was at the Senate. I was at the House. It’s 180 degree difference. We’ve turned the corner. And today, there was confidence. There were no question marks. There was no suspicion. There was no “do more.” There was recognition of what we already had done. There was appreciation of what we had already done. That’s one.
The other thing, the civil-military relations today in Pakistan are excellent. The fact that the army chief is part of the delegation that is here, the fact that we were sitting on the same table arguing, articulating Pakistan case, is unheard of in the past.
And today, thirdly, the Secretary mentioned the private sector, the vibrance of the private sector. Let me share with you that today at the State Department, we had a PPP conference. Let me qualify that – public-private partnership conference. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome back to Washington, Mr. Foreign Minister. This question is for both of you. Given that you were speaking about improved relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, I’d like to ask about reconciliation of the Taliban and what kind of role you envision for Pakistan. Do you envision a role for them in helping to mediate, and what could that do to the security of Pakistan?
And Secretary Clinton, if I might, George Mitchell is going to be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. What are you hoping to secure from the prime minister before he leaves in terms of commitments for the peace process? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: As far as the reconciliation process goes, we’ve discussed it with President Karzai. Pakistan is very clear: We want this to be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process. Now, it’s their choice. If they feel we can contribute, if we can help, we will be more than willing to help. But we leave it to them. We’ve had discussions when they were in Islamabad. I’ve invited the Afghan foreign minister to come to Islamabad for a detailed discussion on the reintegration/reconciliation process. He’s accepted my invitation and we’ll talk about it. Our aim is very simple: We want a peaceful, stable, friendly Afghanistan, period.
SECRETARY CLINTON: With respect to your question to me, Elise, we are engaged in ongoing discussions. And Senator Mitchell, as you pointed out, is very actively part of that. And I think that it’s very clear our goal is the resumption of negotiations, the launching of the proximity talks as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Any thoughts on reconciliation and whether Pakistan could --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I agree with what the foreign minister said.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you assured the people of Pakistan of your support in security-related issues and all other fields. But many in Pakistan believe that U.S. is supporting Pakistan because their real interest is only to confine Taliban and al-Qaida. And when it comes to the issues which are confronting Pakistan, and they have involvement of India, Americans seem too reluctant to play their real role. So how would you assure people of Pakistan that in all security-related issues, whether they are related to Taliban, terrorism, and India, American would play its due role?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that the United States has positive relationships with both Pakistan and India. And we certainly encourage the dialogue between India and Pakistan. The issues that are part of that dialogue need to be addressed, and resolution of them between the two countries would certainly be in everyone’s best interest.
But I want to just underscore that our goal in the Obama Administration is to make clear that we are going to be a partner with Pakistan going forward on a full range of matters. Now, we can’t dictate Pakistani foreign policy or Indian foreign policy. But we can encourage, as we do, the in-depth discussion between both countries that we think would benefit each of them with respect to security and development.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: Can I also respond to you? You see, in the discussions that we’ve had, we underscored the importance of reviving the bilateral track. The last few years, the bilateral track was subsumed because of the Afghan situation, understandably so. We have now refocused on the bilateral track, and that means that our relationship goes beyond Afghanistan, and it has been discussed that the long-term U.S. interests lie east of Afghanistan; that is to be understood.
As far as India is concerned, they are a sovereign country and they have bilateral relations and we respect that – we respect that. But all we are saying that those relations should not be at the cost of Pakistan. And we are very clear and I think you are very clear on that. I’m of the view that Pakistan has been willing to engage. And I’m confident, as two years down the line, I’m confident of this relationship. I’m confident that India will have to revisit its policy and very soon.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.