ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday made a startling revelation that Pakistan and the United States have agreed to begin negotiations on civil nuclear technology.
The finance minister was talking to the media along with US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic) President Elizabeth Little, following a meeting with an Opic delegation in Islamabad.
However, the statement was later retracted in subsequent official correspondence for reasons known to the government. Amongst other possibilities, it could well be the US officials considering it ‘pointless’ for Dar to share details about groundwork for civil nuclear energy talks at this point in time, particularly in the geo-political context.
The previous government (of PPP) propelled Iran-Pakistan pipeline project at the fag end of its tenure, attracting a cautious response from the US government, which included refrains that Pakistan should stay away from transactions with Iran. The US then had also highlighted the help it was extending on energy sector, including the Mangla Dam raising. The Dar’s retraction may be part of this larger context that extends back to the US-India civil nuclear deal while Pakistan, the frontline ally, keeps plunging into darkness by the day.
During Tuesday’s talks, Pakistan and the US agreed to continue talks on the issues of Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) to tap the investment potential. Both sides decided to enhance cooperation in energy sector with special focus on development of biogas and wind energy to counter the energy crisis in Pakistan.
Talking to the media, Elizabeth Little did not touch on the civil nuclear energy, but said that Pakistan was facing an energy crisis, as well as issues with security and governance. She hoped that the new government would overcome all these challenges and propel the country towards better future.
She said that the US would cooperate with Pakistan to increase power generation through wind and biogas. US would enhance technical cooperation with Pakistan to increase power generation “through alternative ways”, she added.
The Opic president said: “The US is starting a project of 50MV wind energy in Sindh and will also undertake more projects in future. The investment through Opic into Pakistan has increased from $80 million to $300 million during last couple of years.” She also highlighted the importance of investments in education and energy.
On his turn, Ishaq Dar said that the US delegation showed willingness to invest in bio-energy sector in Pakistan to overcome power crisis. He said that resolving energy crisis is government’s top priority.
Dar said: “Pakistan and United States have agreed to begin negotiations on civil nuclear technology; however, no timeline could be given for any development on the issue. Transfer of technology is major impediment in the way of bilateral cooperation between both countries. Talks with Opic are the part of government’s efforts to bring foreign investment into the country for economic growth. We want to promote trade with open mind.”
He said that “Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is endeavouring to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan which is one of biggest problems of the country”. Due to the prevailing terrorist activities in the country, the US has issued a travel advisory, he added.
Talking about the circular debt, Dar said that government made the payment to independent power producers for additional power generation as “they have the ability to generate more electricity”.
Earlier, in the meeting, the minister briefed the US delegation on the recent budget.
Pakistan is safe as well as lucrative country for investment and provides an environment which conducive to foreign investors, Dar assured the US delegation.
Opic works with the US private sector and helps US businesses gain footholds in emerging markets, catalysing revenues, jobs and growth opportunities both at home and abroad.
Finance Ministry’s handout adds:
Mr Ishaq Dar did not discuss any thorny issue such as the civil nuclear energy during the meeting.