Pak-US relations have come a long way since 2011 tensions: Sherry
06 February, 2013
WASHINGTON: Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman on Tuesday said her country's relationship with the US has "come a long way" since 2011 tensions and mistrust, as she looked forward to advancing bilateral ties "defined by confidence, trust and mutual respect".
"I am happy to report now that the relationship is now on a stable and, we hope, uphill trajectory, and our expectations are clearly articulated to each other," she told an audience of senior American journalists in an interaction at the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast.
Ambassador Sherry noted that the two countries have mutual goals of stabilising the region and working together to forge peace and stability in South and Central Asia as well as Pakistan, especially Afghanistan, "a task that is daunting, but must be driven by Kabul totally taking the lead".
"We look forward to engaging the US as a new democracy," she said as Pakistan progressed towards a peaceful political transition with the completion of the constitutionally mandated term of the democratically elected government.
The top Pakistani diplomat to the US explained that Islamabad and Washington have revived bilateral cooperation and are now working at institutional level in wide-ranging areas of common interest to both, including law enforcement, economy, finance, strategic stability, counterterrorism, energy and defence. In addition, the two countries have also seen high-level engagement on sustained basis.
Pakistan, she said, wants a long-lasting relationship with the United States, which is broad-based and far wider than cooperation on issues like the ongoing transition in neighbouring Afghanistan.
"We are looking forward to a relationship that is defined by confidence, trust and mutual respect and investment in each other, as nations not just as states, to grow together."
Sherry Rehman, who was a parliamentarian and a federal minister before her appointment as ambassador in Washington, noted that Pakistan is pivoting for regional peace and productive engagement with neighbours to foster stability and that the country's relations with other countries including the United States are moving forward in accordance with Parliamentary guidelines. When asked, she said she looked forward to working with the new Secretary of State John Kerry and other Obama Administration officials on taking the relationship forward.
The Pakistani envoy also appreciated Kerry's predecessor Hillary Clinton for being an ally of her country during her term as top US diplomat.
On the issue of drone strike, the US carries out to target suspected militant targets in Pakistan's tribal areas, Ambassador Sherry reiterated Islamabad's position that they are counterproductive, and constitute direct violation of the country's sovereignty and international laws, and fuel the emergence of new militants.
There is "no question of any quiet complicity" in the US drone strikes on Pakistani soil, she responded emphatically, when asked if Pakistan was publicly criticizing the drone operations while privately allowing the US to go ahead with strikes.
"We have been working together to degrade and destroy al Qaeda ranks while we move towards diminishing al Qaeda ranks in our region, the time for drone strikes is over."
Responding to a series of questions on the subject, Sherry said drones, as precision anti-terror tools, may have some efficacy, but Pakistan does not see them as operationally productive the way they are used.
She argued that the use of US drones on Pakistani soil gives the impression that the fight against terrorism is the United States' fight and not Pakistan's and that these operations also cast US in negative light.
On the question of assisting the Afghan reconciliation process, Sherry said Pakistan is fully committed to and using its political and diplomatic resources to support an Afghan-led drive. She said the Afghan Taliban prisoners are being released in response to Kabul's demands.
At the same time, she said, Islamabad has made clear that it cannot guarantee the outcome and it is the Afghans themselves who have to decide on their future.
Islamabad, she said, has legitimate anxieties regarding the transition in Afghanistan and wants this exit to proceed in a responsible manner, so that the region does not revert to chaos and unrest as it did 30 years ago. This would have serious repercussions for Pakistan, which has been hit by years of militant attacks and has had to contend with an influx of narcotics, guns and militancy since that encounter. Pakistan still hosts the biggest refugee population in the world.