Post-Salala bonhomie: Burying the past, US, Pakistan look to future
TOKYO: After a bad patch in their roller-coaster relationship, Pakistan and the United States have started warming up to each other at last.
They have agreed to bury the bitterness of the past seven months caused by a deadly Nato air raid on a Pakistani border post and subsequent punitive actions by Islamabad.
“The two countries are putting past tensions behind them to focus on the future,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters after a meeting with her Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khar, on the fringes of a day-long conference in Tokyo.
Khar agreed with Clinton: “The deadlock between our two countries has ended and we are now heading in the right direction.”
It was the first one-on-one interaction between the two top diplomats following an ‘apology’ from Secretary Clinton led to the reopening of the Nato transit routes by Islamabad.
Clinton said that she had ‘a broad-ranging discussion’ with Foreign Minister Khar on some of the issues surrounding the reopening of Nato supply lines.
“We are both encouraged that we have been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so we can focus on the many challenges ahead,” she said.
She acknowledged that ties between the two wary allies would still be tested in the future. But the two countries aimed to use the ‘positive momentum generated’ by last week’s deal to move forward on many of the challenges still facing them, Clinton said.
She stressed that her talks with Khar “focused on the necessity of defeating the terror networks that threaten the stability of Pakistan and Afghanistan” as well as reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.
“We also discussed economic support and the goal of moving towards more trade then aid as part of our economic relationship,” Clinton said.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of follow-up work that has to be done. I’ve said a number of times that this is a challenging and essential relationship. It remains so,” Clinton added.
“I have no reason to believe that it will not continue to raise hard questions for us both, but it is something I think is in the interests of the United States as well as Pakistan,” the top US diplomat said.
Foreign Minister Khar said that she was encouraged by the US response to Pakistan’s concerns on ‘contentious’ issues between the two countries.
“Pakistan looks forward to settling all outstanding issues with the US through negotiations and Washington has given a positive gesture in this regard,” she added.
In particular, she spoke about the controversial US drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal regions. “These attacks prove counter-productive besides hurting the efforts to sink differences between the two countries,” she said.
Apart from her interaction with Secretary Clinton, Foreign Minister Khar also met with her Indian counterpart, SM Krishna.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, she called for initiatives from both sides for bridging the gulf between the two peoples which, she believed, would help improve their bilateral relations.
Pakistan has taken several measures, including trade concessions for New Delhi, in order to normalise relations with India, she said. Khar urged India to reciprocate to Pakistan’s ‘positive gestures’ — hinting at the longstanding issues of Sir Creek and Siachen. Separately, Khar met with her Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba.
After their bilateral talks, Clinton and Khar both met Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasul. The three issued a statement that emphasised their desire for militants to surrender their arms and enter reconciliation talks with the Afghan government