News / Asia

Pakistan: Stronger Ties With US Would Help Afghan Peace Efforts

Pakistan's Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, with U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson, July 9, 2013.  File photo provided by Pakistan's Press Information Department.
Pakistan's Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, with U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson, July 9, 2013. File photo provided by Pakistan's Press Information Department.
Ayaz Gul
Pakistan’s new government, headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, says it seeks deepened economic, trade and political ties with the United States despite differences over how to conduct joint anti-terror efforts. Ahead of an expected visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a key member of Pakistan's cabinet tells VOA that close cooperation is also vital for a smooth security transition and stability in neighboring Afghanistan after most American troops leave that country by the end of next year.

Pakistan has been a vital partner in the U.S.-led war against terrorism but its role has always been marred by controversies mainly because of allegations Islamabad never broke ties with the Islamist Taliban leading the insurgency in Afghanistan.

However, Islamabad and Washington have come closer in recent months in a bid to jump-start long-awaited peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The efforts faced major setbacks in recent weeks but officials in Islamabad expect that Kerry's visit might resurrect the Afghan reconciliation process. It came to a halt because of President Hamid Karzai’s objections to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar in June.

In a wide-ranging interview, Pakistan's minister for planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal, told VOA that as Afghanistan's immediate neighbor, his country will be the first to suffer in the absence of a smooth security and political transition. He noted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and subsequent civil war in the 1990s caused up to four million Afghans to seek refuge in Pakistan. He said about three million refugees still live in the country, a strain on the national economy, while the dislocated population is also partly blamed for the rise in militancy on both sides of the border.

“Therefore, we need to work very closely. We need to have great cooperation between United States, other NATO countries and Pakistan so that we can manage this transition in a peaceful manner," said Iqbal. "My greatest worry is not just 2014, but post-2014 because in the last 10 years there was a big war economy which was constructed in Afghanistan and, as the [foreign] forces and the military withdraws from Afghanistan, this war economy will collapse and this is going to cause many dislocations. Now again, if there is an influx of Afghan refugees or unemployed Afghan youth who come to Pakistan, we would have very serious implications," said the minister.

Pakistan sees ties as critical

Iqbal said strong ties with the United States, particularly in economy, energy and trade, are critical for Pakistan. He said there are a number of U.S.-funded projects in place as part of efforts to help Pakistan overcome its energy and power crisis. But the Pakistani minister dismissed suggestions that the recent warming of his country’s traditionally strong ties with neighboring China are meant to move away from the relationship with the United States.

“There are some areas in which cooperation of U.S. is not substitutable. For example, [the] United States is a major export market for Pakistan's textile sector, and we would like to develop it further," he said. "Similarly, the opportunity of learning in the universities of [the] U.S. is also second to none. We would like more and more of our young boys and girls to have access to higher education in [the] U.S. Similarly, we think that in attracting foreign investment [the] United States has been a major investor in Pakistan and we would like to promote our trade as well as investment of [the] United States in Pakistan.”

Officials in Pakistan hope Kerry's visit will boost efforts to revive a bilateral strategic dialogue that has seen intermittent suspensions since 2006. The process suffered major blows when the U.S. military unilaterally acted to track down and kill Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan two years ago. A few months later an American airstrike mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, further straining relations.

The United States began the wide-ranging strategic dialogue in 2006 to help Pakistan overcome financial losses it was suffering because of its participation in the war on terror. The dialogue seeks close cooperation in a range of fields including economy, trade, energy, defense, security, counterterrorism, education and agriculture.

Islamabad estimates that more than 40,000 Pakistanis, including security force members, have died because of a militant backlash to the country’s decision to join the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign. Also, it contends, the nation's economy has suffered multi-billion-dollar losses due to rising insecurity.

You May Like

Photogallery Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid