Islamabad: A delegation of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee headed by its Chairman Senator Robert Menendez Thursday called on President Asif Ali Zardari at Aiwan-e-Sadr.
Two rounds of talks were held, 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 in Islamabad 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 attack as counterproductive causing great damage at popular level and stressed the need to find a way out.
The President also voiced concern over continued militants attack on Pakistani troops and paratroops from Afghan side of the border and underlined the need for ISAF and Afghan security forces in border areas on the Afghan side to provide the anvil to Pakistan’s hammer operations.
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 calls for global and international efforts to eradicate it, 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 proper 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 on meeting of the working Groups of the two countries on Counter Terrorism and Law Enforcement, Energy, Economy & Finance, Defence, and Security, Strategic Stability & Non-proliferation, the President said that the gains made in these meetings need 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, agro and livestock sectors.
About the country’s water and energy needs the President said Pakistan had started the Diamer Basha dam project and called for US and international assistance in the completion of Pakistan’s energy projects to meet its growing power needs.
“The Basha 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 said that bilateral strategic dialogue between the two countries provided the main framework for civilian assistance which was essential for socioeconomic development of people as well as strategic stability of Pakistan.
The President informed the delegation that Pakistan has formulated a comprehensive Counter Improvised Explosive Device IED strategy. He sought the help of international partners for additional resources including training, equipment and finances and provision necessary assets to help Pakistan to implement the Counter-IED strategy.
The President further informed the delegation that the Fair Trial Act enacted yesterday 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.
President Zardari reiterated Pakistan’s support to Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan and expressed support to the transition of security responsibilities from NATO to Afghan government by 2014 and termed the trilateral Summits between Pakistan, UK and Afghanistan as significant steps in the reconciliation process.
Referring to Pakistan-India relations, the President said that Pakistan had liberalized trade with India and wished to establish friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations with it and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes.
Robert Menendez appreciated the role played by Pakistani and the sacrifices offered by its armed forces, security agencies and the people in the fight against militancy. He also thanked the President for meeting him and his delegation. The President also hosted a lunch for the delegation
From US side, those who attended the meeting included among others Senator Robert Menendez Chairman Senate foreign Relation Committee, Mr. Richard E. Olson, Ambassador of USA, Dr. Daniel O’Brien Chief of Staff to Chairman, Ms. Jodie Herman, Senior Policy Director SFRC, Ms. Fatema Sumer Senior Professional Staff Member, SFRC and Mr. Kick Waters Political Counsellor.
From Pakistan side, the meeting was attended among others by Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman, PPP, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Minister, Mr. Saleem H. Mandviwalla, Finance Minister, Mr. M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Senator Farhatullah Babar, Spokesperson to the President, Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, DG, ISI, Lt. Gen. R Asif Yasin Malik, Secretary Defence, Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani, Foreign Secretary and Asif Durrani Additional Secretary.