Pakistani PM’s visit to mark new dimension in ties between vital Muslim democracy and US


Washington : An entire gamut of bilateral relations is on the agenda when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani meets with President George Bush on Monday at the start of his visit.

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The visit is being viewed as the beginning of a new dimension in relationship between the world’s most significant emerging Muslim democracy and the world’s most powerful democratic nation.

Their White House meeting is likely to have a particular focus on bolstering economic cooperation, security assistance, support for democracy and cooperation in the fight against terrorism. This will be the second meeting between the two leaders, who met in Egypt earlier this year on the sidelines of a multilateral conference.

“Prime Minister Gilani is coming to Washington to represent a democratic Pakistan to the United States, which is the world’s most powerful democracy —the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is and should be a multi-dimensional relationship and with the restoration of democracy in Pakistan there is a foundation to strengthen this relationship,” Islamabad’s envoy in Washington Husain Haqqani said Sunday.

During his first visit to Washington, Gilani will also meet top Congressional leaders and senior administration officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and secretaries of state, defense and treasury. The U.S. foreign policy experts have been urging the administration to fully embrace the democratic government that came into power from elections early this year.

Haqqani is confident that there would be a “qualitative difference in the relations between the two countries now that Pakistan has a government that enjoys the mandate of the Pakistani people.”

“The United States is very cognizant of the fact that in the past its cyclical approach to relations with Pakistan has not benefited the United States and it has certainly not benefited Pakistan.

“This time Pakistan and the United States both want a long-term sustained partnership and this visit will lay the foundations of a sustained long-term strategic partnership between Pakistan and the United States,” he stated.

The U.S. leadership will be particularly interested in discussing cooperation in fighting off militancy challenges along Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

“The war against terror, which is in Pakistan’s own interest, will definitely be a focus but this visit will cover a wide range of issues from the supply U.S. wheat to Pakistan to starting direct non-stop flight from Pakistan to the United States – to continuing and strengthening the fight against terror in light of Pakistan’s concerns about protection of its sovereignty and to ensure continued economic and security assistance from U.S. to Pakistan,” the envoy said.

The prime minister is also expected to have interaction with Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, the presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. The Prime Minister is also scheduled to have interaction with the U.S. print and electronic media.

On July 29, the Prime Minister will address investors’ round table on Pakistan’s power sector being organized with the World Bank and International Finance Corporation.