News / Asia

Drones, Afghanistan to Top Agenda During Pakistani Leader Trip to Washington

FILE - Nawaz Sharif, then leader of Pakistan's largest opposition party, gestures during a media conference in Islamabad, Pakistan.
FILE - Nawaz Sharif, then leader of Pakistan's largest opposition party, gestures during a media conference in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Ayaz Gul
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet President Barack Obama in Washington next week on October 23, his first interaction with the U.S. leader since entering office in June. No breakthroughs are anticipated on controversies such as U.S. drone strikes and the Pakistani military’s links with Afghan insurgents. However, despite mutual distrust and suspicion, Sharif’s upcoming meeting with Obama is seen as crucial for bilateral relations.
 
Pakistan badly needs foreign assistance to overcome its economic troubles and deepening energy crisis.
 
The United States will be heavily relying on Islamabad for a smooth withdrawal of most of American troops from neighboring Afghanistan next year. Moreover, Washington wants Pakistan to use its influence with the Afghan Taliban to convince the group to stop committing acts of violence and join the political reconciliation process.
 
Bilateral relations hit rock bottom in 2011 and 2012 after an American military raid killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan and a NATO airstrike mistakenly killed some two dozen Pakistani border forces.
 
However, Pakistan's minister for privatization and commerce, Khurram Dastgir Khan, told VOA that the newly elected government is serious about putting Pakistan-U.S. ties “on a more firm and less personalized footing”.
 
“We need to move, I think, beyond what has traditionally been a transactional mode of Pakistan-U.S. relationship and go into a more long term civilian relationship because what we have seen so far has principally been a military relationship between the two countries,” said Khan.
 
Khan went on to add that Pakistan has been seeking more trade with the United States, not financial aid. He also said Prime Minister Sharif will highlight this issue when he meets President Obama. However, the minister was cautious about the outcomes of the talks in general.  
 
"I think there is a lot of work to be done in that area. I think we are coming off a very rocky 2012 in which Pakistan-U.S. relations for a few weeks really touched rock bottom. We are rebuilding our relationship with the U.S. but perhaps the 2012 debacle is something that we could learn from and convince the U.S. elected leadership that now Pakistan society is moving forward on a more firm democratic basis then it used to,” commented Khan.
 
There are two contentious issues that have prevented Pakistan and the United States from reestablishing comprehensive relations. The first is the American drone strikes against targets on Pakistani soil.
 
The other issue is that al-Qaida-linked militant sanctuaries in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area being used for staging insurgent attacks on U.S.-led international forces in Afghanistan.
 
Pakistani officials say Prime Minister Sharif will take up the drone issue in the meeting with President Obama.
 
Minister Khan insisted that for the United States drones are simply one of the many tools in the fight against terror, but they are fueling militancy in his country. 
 
“The costs of the U.S. drone program are far higher [than] any claimed benefit, whether in terms of hitting the extremists that the U.S. claims… the number of high-profile extremists [killed] that can be claimed as a success of the drone program is really very small and, compared to that the civilian toll… has been too large,” said Khan.
 
Pakistan insists it continues to pay a heavy human and financial cost for supporting the U.S. led war in neighboring Afghanistan. The policy, officials say, has outraged pro-Taliban religious extremists at home, who have unleashed a deadly insurgency in the country, killing more than 40,000 Pakistanis, including security forces.
 
Despite the political tensions, the United States remains Pakistan’s biggest donor and largest source of foreign direct investment.
 
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Meghan Gregonis in Islamabad declared that “trade and investment are the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship," and that the United States is firmly committed to its partnership with Pakistan.
 
She added that two-way trade in 2012 stood at more than five billion dollars and the United States is Pakistan’s largest export market.
 
Both countries have been negotiating a Bilateral Investment Treaty for several years. U.S. officials hope those negotiations can be brought to a successful conclusion; perspective talks on the text have been completed and U.S officials are now awaiting a response from Pakistani officials on how they wish to proceed.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More