US-Pakistani relations substantially improved


Islamabad : US Special Envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has said that the US-Pakistan strategic Dialogue was a tremendous step forward in establishing a strong relationship based on common interest between the two countries.

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“Pakistan is a complicated country that faces huge economic, energy and water problems. And in this overall context, the Pakistanis are dealing with their problems,” Holbrooke said. “But it needs our support, he said in an interview.

Three weeks ago in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led the US-Pakistani Strategic Dialogue “that was a tremendous step forward” in establishing a strong relationship based on common interests, he said.

“We ‘re looking for ways we can help Pakistan strengthen itself, strengthen democracy and help it fight the insurgents in the west,” Holbrooke said April 19 in a State Department-sponsored “Conversation with America”. The insurgency Pakistan faces is “very dangerous both to them and to the United States”.

The Taliban insurgency carries out its attacks on US and NATO-coalition forces in Afghanistan from sanctuaries inside Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the extensive mountain range that divides Afghanistan and Pakistan, an area where political boundaries seem largely irrelevant. The United States and allies drove the Taliban regime that had ruled Afghanistan from power following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Holbrooke, who is the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that before the Obama administration entered office in 2009, the US focus had been on the 4.5 million people living in the federally administered regions and not the bulk of the 175 million Pakistanis. But the focus is now fully on the entire country, he said.

“That’s a hugely important area, and we have special programs for it. But Secretary Clinton decided to re-emphasize the rest of the people,” Holbrooke said. “And what did she turn to first? Energy.”

During a trip to Pakistan in October 2009, Clinton announced six immediate projects and agreements between the United States and Pakistan. Two of the projects have been signed, he said, and some of those include planned water projects.

“I want to assure anyone in Pakistan … that, led by President Obama and the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, we are putting more and more emphasis on energy and water issues, and we will continue to do that up to the absolute limits of what the Congress will fund,” Holbrooke said. “It is a big issue.”

“We are working with the Pakistani leadership on every one of the economic, water and energy issues that we can. This is a vast undertaking,” he said.

When traveling last summer in Karachi , the largest Muslim city in the world with a population of 18 million, Holbrooke experienced days when some sections of the city had electricity for only four hours. “This is not acceptable, and the people are understandably concerned about this,” he said, which is why the United States is working with the Pakistani government to meet those pressing needs.

Last year, Congress authorized $7.5 billion over five years in economic assistance for Pakistan. That commitment has now been funded and money will begin flowing into Pakistan.

The United States has been working closely with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to make certain that standby funding agreements are extended because projects of this size and scope require enormous funding sources. Holbrooke acknowledged that this type of support cannot be done by the United States alone; it requires broader international assistance.

In April 2009, the United States and international donors met in Tokyo and raised $5.5 billion in commitments, and those funds are beginning to arrive. At the strategic dialogue in March, the United States and Pakistan reached agreement on a long list of economic development initiatives, deliveries of new military equipment and a genuine commitment to improve relations.

The use of the term “strategic dialogue” carries significant meaning because it is reserved for the most substantive and wide-ranging exchanges among major global partners with the United States, officials said.