Pak sending high-level team for strategic dialogue with US

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Islamabad, Mar.18 (ANI): Several federal ministers, the army chief, General Asfaq Pervez Kayani, the director-general of the ISI, Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and many federal secretaries will leave for Washington on Saturday to attend the fourth round of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue on March 24.

According to a report in the Dawn, Pakistan's foreign policy gurus are terming the dialogue as a 'renewed process' and as one of the most intense diplomatic engagements that the two countries will have.

The paper claims that the U.S. representation at the dialogue, upgraded to ministerial level, will be equally strong.

The team will be headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Other members will be National Security Adviser James Jones, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke nd a number of other top officials of the Obama administration.

The level of participation by both sides, analysts believe, is indicative of the desire of Islamabad and Washington to give a new meaning to their bilateral relations hitherto marred by trust deficit.

"This round is going to determine the future of Pakistan's relations with the United States," a top official told Dawn, after attending one of the preparatory sessions aimed at developing a unified perspective among the country's state organs for this engagement with Washington.akistan is often referred to by Washington as a 'key regional player' and a 'major non-Nato ally' with whom it eyed a 'long-term engagement', but it is probably the first time that Islamabad's strategists are feeling that the time has come to tell Washington to move on from symbolism and concretely address Pakistan's core security concerns and its immediate economic needs.

Among the issues on which Islamabad desires solid assurances are protection of its legitimate interests in Afghanistan; normalisation of relations with India, including resolution of the Kashmir issue; end to instability in Balochistan; accepting Pakistan as a declared nuclear weapons state and thereby quashing all rumours that the US was secretly working to defang the country.

On Pakistan's wish-list is also a strong desire for civilian nuclear cooperation on the pattern of India-US deal. Although Pakistan primarily wants nuclear cooperation to meet its growing energy needs, the issue has a political connotation also because Islamabad doesn't want to see itself discriminated against and at a disadvantage vis-'-vis India.

Strong emphasis will also be placed on Pakistan seeking market access for its products in the US and economic assistance at the dialogue, which now includes new strands like strategic stability, security, public diplomacy and health.

Pakistani policy makers are hoping to gain major concessions through the dialogue. (ANI)

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