US Senate Delegation meets the Foreign Secretary
A seven- member US Senate delegation, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, met with Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir at the Foreign Office today. Members of the delegation included Senators Richard Burr, Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson, Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, and Marco Rubio. Ambassador Cameron Munter also attended the meeting.
This is the first US Senate delegation visiting Pakistan after the Congressional elections in November last year.
The Foreign Secretary briefed the delegation about efforts being made by Pakistan and the US to take the bilateral relationship forward, as well as exchanged views on counterterrorism and the regional situation. The Foreign Secretary underlined that the global landscape was in a flux and that it was necessary for Pakistan and the US to work closely with each other in order to be on the same page on issues of mutual concern and interest.
Foreign Secretary Bashir said that relations between Pakistan and the US had greatly improved in the last two years and now there was much more clarity about the bilateral trajectory. The Strategic Dialogue had been upgraded to the ministerial level and was aimed at laying solid foundations for a long-term partnership. He said Pakistan, which had suffered immensely from the long war in Afghanistan, needed sustained support by its friends especially the US to address multiple challenges. In this regard, he urged the delegation to help expedite the disbursement of economic assistance under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Legislation; reimbursement under the Coalition Support Fund; Reconstruction Opportunity Zone legislation; and implementation of the Enterprise Fund for Pakistan.
Briefing the delegation about the challenges Pakistan was facing, the Foreign Secretary said that Pakistan was a nation with great potential. The fact that 2.5 million people, who were displaced as a result of law enforcement operations in Swat and Malakand, had returned to their native lands within three months, spoke volumes of the country’s resilience. Pakistan was potentially a rich country and by encouraging public-private partnerships in key projects, the two countries could create win-win situations. He added that the recent floods had wreaked havoc causing unprecedented damage to the infrastructure and affecting close to 20 million people. Nevertheless, the people of Pakistan had been trying to overcome the destruction with dignity, creating new opportunities for development and progress.
The Foreign Secretary gave a detailed account of Pakistan’s efforts against extremism and terrorism and the successes achieved despite economic difficulties. He said the high professional standards of Pakistan’s security forces and the national consensus against extremism and terrorism had been playing the decisive role in counterterrorism. He said Pakistanis were a moderate people and that there was no justification for violence in a civilized society.
Discussing the regional situation, the Foreign Secretary highlighted that Pakistan was committed to Afghanistan-led peace efforts, as well as to facilitate the reconciliation process in accordance with the contours defined by Afghanistan.
On relations with India, Foreign Secretary Bashir underlined that Pakistan had always strived for normal relations with its eastern neighbor, expressing the hope that a comprehensive dialogue between the two countries would be resumed this year.
The leader and the members of the US delegation in their remarks reaffirmed bipartisan support for long-term strategic relations between Pakistan and the US. They also assured the Foreign Secretary that the US Congress would continue extending all possible assistance to Pakistan in counterterrorism and to achieve peace, stability and prosperity.
15 January 2011