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US, Pakistan Open Strategic Dialogue

David Gollust | The State Department 24 March 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has opened a high-level strategic dialogue with Pakistan, saying the two-day meeting begins a "new day" in the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Security, energy and economic issues will dominate the ministerial level forum.

The meeting in Washington that includes the two countries' top diplomatic, military and intelligence officials marks a significant upgrade in the strategic dialogue begun in 2006.

At a ceremonial opening event with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Pakistan "stands at the front line" of a struggle against violent extremism that has inflicted terrible costs on the Pakistani people.

In remarks broadcast live to Pakistan, Clinton expressed U.S. appreciation for the Islamabad government's offensive against the Taliban and other radical elements, who she said have responded with a "perverse strategy" of suicide bombings and other attacks aimed at destabilizing the country.

She said the United States stands with Pakistanis as they rebuild their communities and "rid their country of those who seek to destroy it."

"To the people and government of Pakistan, the United States pledges our full support," she said. "You are fighting a war whose outcome is critical, first and foremost of course for the people of Pakistan. But it will also have regional and global repercussions. And so strengthening and advancing your security remains a key priority of our relationship," she added.

Clinton said advancing the security of Pakistanis means more than military aid, but also helping address the country's chronic problems, including joblessness and energy shortages.

She noted the $7.5 billion civilian aid program for Pakistan recently approved by Congress as evidence of that commitment.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi said his country put itself on the target list of regional extremists when it "joined hands" with the United States against terrorism after the 9-11 attacks on Americans in 2001.

"Red marks were placed on Pakistani cities. Thousands of us innocent citizens became victims of foreign-sponsored sabotage," he said. "Our society was exposed to a massive refugee influx, as well as the devastating effects of illicit weapons and drugs, which continue to afflict us to this day," he added.

The Pakistani Foreign Minister said his country is "doing its part" to facilitate peace in Afghanistan.

He said he hopes the world community will be "equally responsive" in helping resolve regional issues, including Pakistan's dispute with India over Kashmir, for which he said he hopes for continued U.S. "constructive engagement."

Mr. Qureshi alluded to Pakistani hopes for a U.S.-Pakistan civil nuclear accord similar to the one the Bush administration concluded with India.

Pakistani officials are understood to have brought with them a detailed list of pressing needs, reportedly including helicopters and drone aircraft to be used against Taliban insurgents.

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