Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told top U.S. officials Wednesday his government will prevail in its struggle with the Taliban and other Islamic radicals. He spoke at the close of the first day of a bilateral dialogue that he said yielded a U.S. agreement to fast track delivery to Pakistan of key military supplies.
The ministerial-level dialogue in Washington still has another day of sessions Thursday. But Foreign Minister Qureshi, the Pakistani delegation leader, says he is already happy and satisfied that U.S. Pakistani ties are moving from a relationship to a partnership.
Qureshi, at a press event with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said he and his team have found in Washington a new appreciation for the strength of Pakistan's emerging democracy and for its military drive to turn back a Taliban insurgency that only a matter of months appeared to threaten Islamabad.
He said Washington had agreed to fast-track or accelerate Pakistani requests for military hardware, some of them pending for months and years.
And he said Pakistan's ongoing military offensive, which has killed a number of key insurgent leaders, has made believers out of U.S. officials who little more than a year ago were accusing Pakistan of yielding to the Taliban by its accommodation with militant tribesmen in the SWAT valley region.
"Everybody said: you signed the SWAT deal. Capitulation. Surrender. I said hold on. That's a tactic. Wait. Wait till you see the results. And we have demonstrated the results," said Shah Mehmood Qureshi. "The people of Pakistan, the armed forces of Pakistan have shown the resolve, the determination and the commitment. And we're going to win. And we're going to win in this struggle because defeat is not an option."
The dialogue, which also includes defense and intelligence chiefs of the two governments, has already yielded a list of other agreements including U.S. rehabilitation of three Pakistani thermal electric plants to help deal with chronic power outages.
Pakistan is understood to be seeking a civil nuclear agreement with the United States like the one the Bush administration concluded with India. Clinton made no commitment on that, other than to say the U.S. side will discuss any issue the Pakistanis raise.
She said despite the amity evident at the State Department meetings, the two countries will not agree on all issues yet are determined to make the dialogue process succeed.
"Will we have disagreements? Of course," said Hillary Clinton. "We have disagreement with all of our friends from time to time. Yet we don't want anything to disrupt or divert our attention from building this relationship into a partnership, as the foreign minister has said - a partnership that really stands the test of time."
Clinton said earlier the strategic dialogue, begun in 2006 but only now upgraded to the ministerial level, heralded a new day in the relationship, which has been marred by strains over the years.
Qureshi, whose government has been accused in the past of ambivalence about cross-border activity by the Taliban in Afghanistan, said Pakistan now has far more manned outposts along the border than does Afghanistan.
He said the unprecedented Pakistani border security effort, along with Islamabad's own offensive against the Taliban, have had a significant impact in Afghanistan which is now being acknowledged by Kabul authorities.