US focuses on security, Pakistan harps on Kashmir

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington: The US and Pakistan Wednesday began their first strategic dialogue with Washington focusing on the war on terrorism, and Islamabad harping on the Kashmir issue and seeking an India-type nuclear deal.

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Asking the US to “constructively engage” in the process of peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue with India, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “Pakistan seeks peaceful resolution to all issues in South Asia, including Kashmir.”

“We hope the US will maintain its constructive engagement to encourage this process,” he said at the launch of the talks at the US State Department with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Qureshi also sought “non-discriminatory” access to energy, an apparent reference to nuclear cooperation that Pakistan is seeking with the US on the lines of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

Underlining the importance of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism, Qureshi pitched for enhanced partnership with the US on a whole range of issues, including energy.

Earlier, Hillary Clinton pledged full support to Pakistan in its growing action against extremism, saying: “Its struggles are our struggles.”

A “new day” has begun in their relationship, she said, noting: “For the past year, the Obama administration has shown in our words and deeds a different approach and attitude toward Pakistan.”

The two nations “have had our misunderstandings and disagreements in the past,” Clinton acknowledged. “But this is a new day”.

One way to improve ties, she said, would be to expand the security focus to include energy development, education and agriculture.

Neither Clinton nor Quershi outlined specific programmes, but media reports have suggested that Pakistan is bringing to the table a long wish list, including an India-type civil nuclear deal and a direct Washington role in reviving the peace process with New Delhi.

Though the State Department declined to acknowledge that Pakistan had made the demands in a 56-page document sent to the US ahead of Wednesday’s talks, the Wall Street Journal citing unnamed American officials suggested it was an implicit offer to crack down in return on the Afghan Taliban.