US, Pakistan working to repair widening rift | Pakistan Today

US, Pakistan working to repair widening rift

ISLAMABAD – With no end in sight to the differences between Pakistan and the US over drone attacks and the scale of CIA operations, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen is rushing to Islamabad this week in a bid to end the days’ long row, which is damaging not only bilateral ties but also the US led anti-terrorism campaign. Mullen, who has met with army chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani several times in the past, is considered to have more tolerance for the Pakistani point of view on conflicting issues between Islamabad and Washington. The top US military commander will meet General Kayani and other senior army officials during his upcoming visit to Pakistan and he is also likely to meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
“Admiral Mullen will try to lessen the prevailing mistrust between Islamabad and Washington and especially the differences between the two sides over the repeated US drone strikes in Pakistani Tribal Areas as well as the CIA activities and large presence of its operatives here,” a Pakistani diplomat said. Mullen is arriving when a US Congressional delegation being led by House speaker, John Boehner is already in Pakistan making the efforts of bridging the widening gap in the ties between Pakistan and the US. However, the diplomat said the top American military commander would find it a daunting task to do away with the serious row between Islamabad and Washington that erupted in the wake of arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January this year.
The diplomat said one important decision made by the two sides after the emergence of serious differences was to continue with their talks aimed at ending their differences and Admiral Mullen’s visit to Islamabad was the result of that decision. Meanwhile, talking to the US Congressional delegation at the Prime Minister’s House, Prime Minister Gilani said the US should refrain from conducting drone attacks inside Pakistan and instead should share credible intelligence to enable Pakistan take actions against the terrorists. Gilani urged the US Congress to use its influence with its administration to agree on a joint strategy under which the drone technology should be transferred to Pakistan.
Expressing satisfaction over resumption of bilateral engagements between the two countries at political, economic, military and intelligence level, Gilani said the US must not allow any an isolated incident to make the strategic relations between Pakistan-US hostage. He said Pakistan was keenly looking forward to the US secretary of state’s visit to Pakistan due in the third week of May for the next round of strategic dialogues which, he hoped, would pave the way for fast tracking the disbursement of Kerry-Lugar aid for high visibility projects in power, energy, health, education and infrastructure sectors. He pointed out that the US Congress’ authorisation for the reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZs) and establishment of the enterprise fund that had been pending would help US investment particularly, in the militancy-affected areas of Pakistan.
Gilani also sought US Congress’ assistance for timely commencement of multi- year defence commitment and counterinsurgency capacity fund which were crucial for the capacity building of Pakistan’s armed and security forces to take the campaign against extremism and militancy to its logical conclusion. Commending Pakistan’s role as a frontline state in the war against terrorism, Boehner acknowledged Pakistan’s tremendous sacrifices. He assured the prime minister that the US would retain its long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan to defeat this common enemy, adding that the US Congress was in the process of cutting down government spending to reduce the US budget deficit.

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