Washington, Mar.30 : U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has brushed aside criticism of the visit to Pakistan by Deputy Secretary John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asian and South Asian Affairs Richard Boucher, terming the trip "pretty coincidental" and insisting that it reflected Washington's respect for the democratic process in Pakistan.
In an interview with the editorial board of the Washington Times, Rice said: "I believe that given that Pakistan is an ally and a country, with whom we have deepening ties, it's a good thing to engage the government early."
"I would hope people would take it as a sign of respect, that we respect the democratic process in Pakistan and we respect its outcome and we welcome its outcome, and it's now time, therefore, to engage that government," she added.
The US is interested in talking to the new government on the way forward in the fight against violent extremism, Dr. Rice said, while acknowledging the complexity of the problem in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
"FATA is a special problem because it has not been governed really ever. It's a special problem because the tribal ties are very deep and they are cross-border ties. And we are - we have been trying to develop with the - first with the Musharraf government, and I think we will be interested in conversations with the new government-as to how to address this part of Pakistan where, clearly, terrorism is a really big problem," she said.
She noted that Pakistan has been a victim of terrorist attacks and underlined the menace has to be addressed.