ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the US have renewed strategic commitments for enhanced military ties “on a prioritised set of Pakistan’s defence requirements” to defeat terrorism and extremism, as the crucial defence talks between the two allies concluded on a high note on Tuesday.
The final day of the Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group (DCG) saw agreement on the continued American support to Pakistan under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and other security assistance programmes. The 21st round of the two-day event (December 3-4) was a sequel to the Pak-US defence parleys held in Washington in May last year.
“Both delegations welcomed the resumption of bilateral security cooperation and agreed that relations between the two countries should be based on the principles of strategic desirability, political sustainability, trust and mutual respect. Both delegations acknowledged that bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation has been critical to weaken violent extremists, and underscores the importance of continuing cooperation to complete the defeat of al Qaeda and its affiliates in the region.
Both sides affirmed their mutual commitment to a strong defence relationship, which they stressed, should focus on achieving common objectives,” a joint statement on the DCG meeting said.
Recalling Salala incident, the two sides expressed ‘deep appreciation’ for the sacrifices of “all the military personnel and civilians in the common fight.” The NATO-led ISAF’s draw-down strategy was also discussed.
“The Pakistani delegation provided an update on its military campaign along its western border and the US side briefed on ISAF activities in Afghanistan, including efforts to transition the lead for security to Afghan forces. In light of the tragic November 2011 cross-border incident in which two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed by Nato forces, both sides expressed appreciation for the efforts by their respective militaries to improve operational coordination.
Both expressed their deep appreciation for the sacrifices of all military personnel and civilians in the common fight,” the joint document stated.
It said both delegations concluded that the discussions to reopen the Nato-led coalition’s ground supply lines and the resumption of bilateral consultations on regional security were significant achievements over the six months.
This year, Pakistan has received the US assistance of over $1.2 billion under the CSF while it is to receive additional $700 million by March next year. Multiple humanitarian and developmental projects are also overseen by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Pakistan.
The last year’s Abbottabad operation and Salala attack leading to the Nato supplies blockade had saw disruption of American aid provision to Pakistan through CSF.
In August this year, a State Bank of Pakistan spokesperson had confirmed to a foreign news agency of having received $1.18 million CSF assistance for this year. Pakistan had received previous CSF installment of $633 million in December 2010, the spokesman had stated.
“Recognising the enduring security requirements on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the two delegations agreed to cooperate on a prioritised set of Pakistan’s defence requirements which will inform follow-on consultations on security assistance. The United States and Pakistan also discussed the importance of the Coalition Support Fund and security assistance programmes, and agreed to continue consultations on the way forward,” the Tuesday’s joint communiqué said.
Last month, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, General Sher Muhammad Karimi and Lieutenant General Nicholas Carter, the three top military commanders respectively from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the ISAF, had finalised renewed border coordination mechanism at the 36th meeting of the Tripartite Commission (TPC) in Kabul. Besides signing a document on Tripartite Border Coordination Mechanism, the three sides had also discussed the NATO troops withdrawal and the post-2014 scenario.
Earlier the same month, as part of the ongoing strategic dialogue, Lt-Gen Carter had also met with Pakistan’s Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt Gen Waheed Arshad at the General Headquarters.
Dr James Miller Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, led the 25 member DCG delegation from Washington’s side. It also included Richard Olson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan. Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik represented Islamabad.
“The delegations reaffirmed the DCG remains an invaluable forum to discuss strategic defence policy issues and exchange views on shared security concerns, and committed to continue working together to implement a framework for defence cooperation based on areas of convergence between US and Pakistani interests to promote peace and stability in the region,” said the joint statement.
INP adds: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar have expressed their commitment to act jointly to achieve shared objectives.
The two foreign ministers met in Brussels late Monday night where they discussed counter terrorism, support for Afghan-led peace process and the post 2014 transition in Afghanistan.
They also talked about various measures to strengthen bilateral relations and moving the US-Pakistan economic agenda from aid to trade, emphasizing market access and investment. The top envoys welcomed the recent meetings of the trilateral corp, law enforcement, economic and defence working groups. They looked forward to meetings of the energy and strategic stability working groups and underlined the importance to continue these engagements in future. A State Department official said after the meeting that the United States and Pakistan agreed to identify and work on the areas of common interest.
“As part of their regular series of consultations, Secretary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khar and their delegations reviewed the progress in US-Pakistani relations in 2012 based on their commitment to identify shared interests and act on them jointly,” he said while requesting anonymity.
“They discussed counter-terrorism cooperation, support for the Afghan-led peace process, the 2014 transition in Afghanistan and the need to move the US-Pakistan economic agenda from aid to trade, emphasizing market access and investment,” he said.
The official said that both dignitaries termed the recent interactions between Pakistan and US as encouraging for the future of relationship.
Earlier, responding to a question regarding the chances of reconciliation efforts with Taliban following Khar-Clinton meeting, State Department spokesman Mark Toner welcomed reports of reconciliation talks with the Taliban and the core group.
“I think we saw last week that there were meetings between Afghanistan and Pakistan, obviously. We’ve welcomed that kind of cooperation. We want to see greater dialogue between them. Obviously our role, as well as Pakistan’s role, is the same. We want to see an Afghan-led reconciliation process,” he said.
He also hailed the dialogue between Pakistan and Afghanistan. “I think that we would view positively any kind of dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan that furthers the ultimate goal. And certainly our goal is to play a facilitative role in this process,” he maintained.