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Pakistan-US ties on upward trajectory: Sartaj Aziz

29 January, 2014

WASHINGTON: The Pakistan-US relationship is on an upward trajectory, with bilateral cooperation in wide-ranging economic and security fields moving well, National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz told a Washington think tank on Tuesday.

Aziz, who led Pakistan at the Strategic Dialogue with US Secretary of State John Kerry this week, also touched on some of the mutual concerns the two sides have had in recent years and said that building trust could greatly spur the bilateral relationship. In a speech at the Atlantic Council, Aziz noted that Washington is being appreciative of Pakistan's views on some key regional issues.

"On the whole, the relationship is on an upward trajectory," he remarked to a gathering that included American experts, journalists and writers. Top members of the Pakistani delegation, including Minister for Defence, Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani were present on the occasion.

In his speech, Pakistan's chief national security adviser highlighted the fact that five working groups under the Strategic Dialogue have held their meetings and that cooperation in the fields of energy, defence, counterterrorism, law enforcement is "moving very well". However, Sartaj Aziz called for greater trade access for Pakistani products and a robust inflow of American investment into prospective areas of the country's economy. He said an investment conference being held in Islamabad will give the signal to American investors for opportunities they can utilise in the country.

The top adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the purpose of the dialogue is to convert the transactional relationship into a strategic relationship. In this respect, he also enumerated some important ingredients that from Islamabad's perspective make a relationship truly strategic, including mutual trust between countries and institutions, which, he said, could avert happenings that strain relationship and sustain the ties. Secondly, in this case, he highlighted the significance of Washington giving "greater attention to Pakistan's concerns" like spillover of fighters, who were previously jointly trained to fight the Soviets occupation in Afghanistan - from Afghan areas into Pakistani tribal areas with the start of Afghan war and those vis-a-vis India and nuclear civil deal.

"I think there is an appreciation of these points," he noted, at the event, moderated by Director South Asia Shuja Nawaz. Regarding US concerns on terrorism, safe havens and cross-border militancy, Aziz said most of these were "perception issues but also partly issues of timing". The national security adviser explained that certain things that happened in the aftermath of 9/11 were transformed with changing situation like the birth of the Pakistani Taliban, which changed the mindset.

"Some people are looking at it from the old mindset and therefore, it has to be updated from where we are going." He said once the trust is restored the concrete ingredients of a better relationship like trade, investment, technology cooperation become much more meaningful.

Aziz said the relationship can be improved in fundamental ways and expressed confidence that goals laid out in the October 2013 meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be achieved.


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