ISLAMABAD – Voicing concern over the continued militant attacks on Pakistani troops from Afghan side of the border, President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday underlined the need for Isaf and Afghan security forces in border areas on the Afghan side to provide anvil to Pakistan’s hammer operations.
The US delegation held two rounds of talks with President Zardari, a delegation level meeting and another one in which the President was assisted by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Senator Menendez was assisted by the US Ambassador Richard E Olson.
A host of issues ranging from bilateral relations, to the fight against militancy and the regional situation were discussed during the meeting.
Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that during talks the president termed drone attacks as counterproductive causing great damage at popular level and stressed the need to find a way out.
The president underscored the sacrifices Pakistan had made in the fight against militancy and said that there was a need for acknowledging and appreciating these sacrifices adding that blame game did not serve the common purpose of defeating militants.
“Terrorism is a global issue and efforts should be made at global and international levels to eradicate it,” he said.
He said Pakistan’s armed forces were doing a heroic job despite odds but, stretched as they were in the tribal areas, they needed to be assisted with resources for long-term and sustained counter-terrorism operations.
The president said that bilateral ties between Pakistan and the US were multifaceted and it would not be unfair to see them through one prism only, be that Afghanistan or any other.
The president said that Pakistan valued its multifaceted relationship with the US and stressed the need to build on the current momentum in their relations. Expressing his satisfaction over the meeting of working groups of the two countries on counter terrorism and law enforcement, energy, economy & finance, defence and security, strategic stability and non-proliferation, the president said that the gains made in these meetings needed to be further consolidated and built upon. He also stressed upon the need for early convening of the meeting of working group on water as well.
The spokesperson said that the president specially focused on trade and commerce ties between the two countries. Reiterating that Pakistan looked forward to increased trade through market access instead of aid, the president said that Pakistan also wanted increased US investment in Pakistan in energy, agri and livestock sectors.
About the country’s water and energy needs, the president said Pakistan had started the Diamer Bhasha Dam project and called for US and international assistance in the completion of Pakistan’s energy projects to meet its growing power needs.
“The Bhasha Dam held the promise of signature American investment in Pakistan and a visible and long-term legacy of Pakistan-US bilateral cooperation,” the spokesperson quoted the president as saying.
The president further informed the delegation that the Fair Trial Act enacted the previous day would help in speedy and successful prosecution and conviction of terror culprits including those handling and transporting IEDs. Regional situation also came under discussion during the meeting.
Robert Menendez appreciated the role played by Pakistan and the sacrifices offered by its armed forces, security agencies and the people in the fight against militancy.
The meeting was attended among others by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Hina Rabbani Khar, Saleem H Mandviwalla M Salman Faruqui, Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, Asif Yasin Malik, Jalil Abbas Jilani from Pakistan while from US side it was attended by Senator Robert Menendez, Richard E Olson, Dr Daniel O’Brien, Jodie Herman and Ms Fatema Sumer.
Later Robert Menendez accompanied by Richard Olson also called on the foreign minister on Thursday.
Both sides discussed matters of mutual interest pertaining to bilateral relations, and regional issues including the situation in Afghanistan.
The foreign minister expressed satisfaction on the current trajectory of the relationship between Pakistan and the US and hoped that the multifaceted relations would be further strengthened and deepened on the basis of common interests and mutual respect. She underscored the need for greater market access for Pakistan’s exports and also flagged concerns on the drone attacks.
The foreign minister briefed the US senator on various initiatives that Pakistan had taken on the request of High Peace Council to facilitate peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Senator Menendez assured Hina that US Congress would continue to support democracy and assist the people of Pakistan in meeting their current challenges.