US, Pak will try to improve diplomatic ties during strategic dialogue

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Washington, Oct 19 (ANI): The United States and Pakistan will endeavour to get their crisis-prone relationship back on track during a strategic dialogue in Washington this week.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries received a setback when Pakistan blocked its key land route through the Khyber Pass for NATO supplies, following US forces' repeated incursions into its territory and the killing at least two of its troops, the Dawn reported.

It reopened the crossing after 11 days after the US formally apologized for the killings, which NATO officials said was an accident caused due to a porous Afghan-Pak border.

The chopper incident came just after the US, conscious of widespread anti-Americanism in Pakistan, mobilized a major humanitarian drive to help flood victims.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who will represent Pakistan in the high-level talks, praised the aid, but also said the relationship suffered "two steps back" due to the helicopter attack and relentless US drone strikes in its territory.

"We are an ally, not a satellite... We have to protect our borders, you have to respect our sovereignty," said Qureshi.

"You have to realize the political price you pay in Pakistan and that my government pays as your friend from the almost daily drone assaults on our territory," he added.

Referring to public sentiments following the cross-border air strikes in the country, he minister noted that "if unmanned drone attacks were not difficult enough for our people to absorb, the recent acts of NATO helicopters in Pakistan, killing Pakistani soldiers, are nothing short of infuriating."

Qureshi said the US can improve its relations with Pakistan by taking up issues on which it has long been hesitant, such as pursuing a free trade deal, discussing civil nuclear cooperation along the lines of a US pact with India, or pressurising India over the disputed Kashmir region. (ANI)

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