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Ambassador Blome’s Remarks 75th Anniversary Reception September 29, 2022
13 MINUTE READ
September 29, 2022

 

Thank you all for joining us this evening.  I am especially delighted to welcome Prime Minister Sharif and thank him for representing the people and government of Pakistan at this very special commemoration.

We are here to mark the 75th anniversary of relations between our two countries.  It is a chance to reflect on our relationship, and to look back on decades of real accomplishment.  Our partnership helped Pakistan establish its economic stability and independence, and in some ways helped change the world.

But it is also an opportunity to look forward at what this partnership can mean for the future.  I believe we are at an inflection point.  For many years, our relationship was viewed through a regional lens.  From the Cold War through the past few decades in Afghanistan, security matters dominated the narrative and overshadowed other critical parts of the relationship.

Security issues are of course important.  The people of Pakistan have suffered enormously from the scourge of terrorism and know this well.  Ensuring terrorists are brought to justice and can no longer threaten our people is a responsibility we all share and cannot avoid.

Today, however, the world is transforming at a blinding pace.  Climate change, global health challenges, energy scarcity, technology, and rapidly shifting trade and investment patterns have created an environment that demands adaptability, innovation, and partnership.  I believe this set of challenges provides an opportunity to reframe the U.S.-Pakistan partnership.  We must recognize that our shared objectives and mutual ambitions go much deeper than we sometimes realize.

The signs of our 75-year partnership are visible throughout Pakistan.  Decades of development assistance supported the construction of schools and hospitals and built highways throughout the country.  Thousands of Pakistanis have studied in the United States and have returned to Pakistan to assume key roles in business and government.  And U.S. companies employ hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis, and we have built a network of personal and professional connections that has established a strong foundation for our relationship.

There is also a long history of humanitarian work that binds our countries.  We were there for Pakistan during the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 and the floods of 2010 and 2011, and now today we are helping lead efforts to ensure Pakistanis in need receive life-saving assistance amid the devastating flooding throughout the country.  The immense loss of life, livelihoods, and homes is shocking.  On behalf of the American people, allow me to offer our condolences and continued support to Pakistan.

While the water is only starting to recede and the rebuilding just beginning, the people of the United States will continue to stand with Pakistan.  We have thus far provided more than $66 million in U.S. government flood assistance, including another $10 million announced this week by Secretary Blinken.  This includes urgently needed food support, safe water, improved sanitation, financial support, and shelter assistance.  In order to rapidly scale up the response, some of this assistance was flown into Pakistan by U.S. military airplanes through an airbridge from USAID supply warehouses in Dubai.  Working side-by-side with Pakistani authorities and partners, our assistance is saving lives and reducing suffering among the most vulnerable affected communities.  And as the challenges facing Pakistan evolve in the coming months, the United States and international partner governments will do more.

But it’s not just the U.S. government that is coming to Pakistan’s aid in this time of need. Ordinary American citizens and private companies are also finding ways to help.  Thus far, they have donated over $27 million dollars and contributed food, medicine, and other relief supplies to the people of Pakistan.  We are doing what friends and partners do – support each other when it’s needed most.  Acha doest buray waqt ko bhee acha bana dayta hay. (A good friend is there in bad times and in good.)

Over the past twenty years, the US had provided more than $32 billion in direct support to the people of Pakistan.  But our investments began well before that.  In the 1960s, we helped support the “Green Revolution” in Pakistan, which led to higher yielding varieties of key crops like wheat and rice, dramatically boosting economic opportunities for rural Pakistanis and increasing life expectancy across the country.

We invested in Pakistan’s electrification more than 50 years ago, constructing dams and hydropower plants that continue to provide reliable, efficient, and clean energy today.  These projects dramatically increased the nation’s electricity capacity – today powering the homes of more than 50 million people. The dams also help to prevent catastrophic water shortages, mitigate the effects of flooding, and expand agricultural productivity.  The Mangla and Tarbela Dams alone can store about 10 percent of the water passing through Pakistan.  Gomal Zam Dam irrigation doubled agricultural output in the surrounding area, providing food and economic opportunities to thousands of people, and helped save lives and livelihoods during the recent flooding.

Beyond infrastructure, our engagement has helped build perhaps the strongest part of our bilateral bond: people-to-people connections.  Since 1950, our two governments have promoted mutual understanding through higher education exchanges like the Fulbright program.  Today, we contribute more to the Fulbright Program in Pakistan than in any other country.  The power of our people-to-people relationship is evident in our vibrant 37,000-member alumni network – the largest in the world.  These ties keep our bonds strong no matter what may be happening in the world around us.

At the heart of our relationship lies the economy.  The United States is Pakistan’s largest single export market by a wide margin. We are also one of Pakistan’s largest sources of foreign investment.  Last year saw a 50 percent increase in U.S. investment in Pakistan over the year before, and it is now the highest it has been in over a decade.

U.S. companies and their local affiliates are also among Pakistan’s largest employers, directly employing more than 120,000 Pakistanis.  They indirectly support hundreds of thousands more.  Our firms have a long record of making and selling high-quality products and services in Pakistan’s market, from energy, agricultural equipment and products to franchising, retail trade, and the digital sector.

Our health cooperation prepared Pakistan to weather the COVID-19 pandemic better than many other countries, and the United States donated more than 78 million high-quality and effective U.S. vaccine doses.  We’ve also invested $80 million to help Pakistan combat this pandemic while building infrastructure and resiliency for the future.

And this relationship is anything but one-way.  U.S. firms benefit from partnerships with Pakistani counterparts.  A vibrant and highly successful Pakistani-American community of more than 550,000 serves as a bridge between our two countries, contributing immensely to the United States as doctors, tech workers, engineers and artists.  And we work together on international efforts in areas as diverse as science, environment, and diplomacy.

This rich history should point the way to where we can take our relationship in the future.  I mentioned earlier how the Cold War and then Afghanistan seemed to overshadow other aspects of our relationship.  More recently, some have tried to see this relationship through the narrow prism of China or India.  But these are inadequate and often misunderstood frameworks.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan deserves to stand on its own.  It is necessarily broad-based, and profoundly important for both our countries, for the region, and for the world.  It is not, and need not be, exclusive of any other regional relationship.  At a moment of great change, the United States and Pakistan need to define a partnership that advances our shared interests and meets our mutual, ambitious goals.

The strong foundations of our mutual relationship have prepared us to jointly address our most pressing global challenges.

The first challenge is how to achieve inclusive economic growth, including a trade and investment relationship based on fairness, transparency, and sustainability.  The enormous, untapped potential for U.S.-Pakistan trade and investment should be clear.  If Pakistan can build consensus around a set of investor-friendly priorities for the economy, it has every possibility of benefiting from shifting in global supply chains and becoming an engine of regional integration.  I’ve heard a similar vision from many of you here this evening.  I’m aware of the political obstacles, but it is a moment for Pakistan’s business and political leaders to think boldly.  Pakistan must unleash the potential of its talented and entrepreneurial young people – especially women, who are its greatest untapped resource.  As Pakistan moves ahead, U.S. firms will be eager to explore possibilities here, and provide high quality, transparent investments that benefit Pakistanis.

The second challenge is building a climate-friendly energy policy that is sustainable and can both power Pakistan’s economic growth and preserve its economic independence.  As our cooperation on the “Green Revolution” improved lives in the 1960s, a “Green Alliance” between the U.S. and Pakistan can help us together face the consequences of the climate crisis and prepare our societies and economies to adapt to a changing future.

Reliance on fossil fuels is not just a climate risk, but as we see all too clearly today, it can be an energy security risk as well.  Last week in New York, President Biden announced a United States commitment to delivering more than $11 billion a year in international climate finance to help implement global climate goals and ensure a just energy transition.  This includes helping half a billion people in vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience through our PREPARE plan.  In Pakistan, we also support the goal of increasing the share of renewable power generation from 34 percent to 60 percent by 2030, helping to attract more private investors in renewables and providing access to financing.  We have helped develop Pakistan’s first wind corridor in Sindh and finalized deals for wind and solar power projects, increasing Pakistan’s power generation capacity in these fields by 50 percent.  Pakistan has seen more than $2.4 billion in new investment in the renewable energy sector, which will bring additional improvements – and lower costs – to Pakistanis.  We are also helping Pakistan improve its agricultural sector, improving sustainability and water management, as we have at the Gomal Zam dam.  There is much more we can do – through private sector investment, financing, and technical assistance, we can meet this challenge together.

These trade and investment, health, and environment partnerships are just the start.  We hope to continue to grow these bonds and develop a broad-based and balanced relationship, encouraging more of these dynamic partnerships across all Pakistan.  That is why I’ve traveled extensively outside of the embassy walls and met all segments of society and learned from your people and rich culture.  Just as I hope our trade and investment ties will continue to grow, I will continue to build our political relationship between our governments.  Like all relationships, at times, we will have differing views and disagreements.  I remain committed to a transparent relationship with Pakistani leaders, whatever political party or leadership remains in power.

Finally, there is the critical challenge of preserving freedom and democracy, which are under threat in so many ways today around the world.  Our two countries share a common foundation as constitutional democracies.  The United States deeply admires the profound sacrifices that so many Pakistanis have made to sustain freedom of expression, liberty of conscience, and open and fair elections.  Every country dedicated to the difficult project of democracy knows that reality cannot always match ideals – my own country knows this as well.  But as the Founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Jinnah, said, “democracy is in the blood.”  Democracy is in the blood of Pakistan, as it is in the blood of the United States, and our two countries must continue to demand and work toward the achievement of our highest democratic ideals.  As President Biden said last week in New York, the future will be won by those countries that unleash the full potential of their people.  That potential can only be reached when all people are free to make their voices heard.

As two of the five largest countries in the world, and given our long history of cooperation and shared ambitions, this reframed relationship is more urgent and valuable than ever.  As we look forward to the next 75 years and beyond, I hope you will join me in opening this new door.  Thank you for your time, and for joining us here this evening.