Pakistan Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Islamabad on January 13, 2015, for the fifth Ministerial level Pakistan-U.S. Strategic Dialogue. The last Ministerial level session of the Strategic Dialogue was held in Washington on 27 January 2014.
- The Adviser welcomed Secretary Kerry to Islamabad as an old friend of Pakistan. The two leaders reviewed progress made in bilateral relations in the past year, and held wide-ranging discussions on sustaining and further building the momentum in bilateral cooperation. Secretary Kerry conveyed that a strong, prosperous and democratic Pakistan is an essential partner for the United States in advancing the shared goal of a stable and peaceful region. Both sides reiterated their commitment to an enduring partnership between Pakistan and the United States, which is vital for regional security and stability. The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of the Pakistan-U.S. Strategic Dialogue for providing vision and direction for a strong and cooperative partnership between the two countries.
- Secretary Kerry conveyed condolences on the tragic loss of lives in the terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar on 16th December 2014. He expressed solidarity with the people of Pakistan and appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism.
- Secretary Kerry expressed appreciation for the sacrifices of Pakistan’s military personnel and civilians in the fight against terrorism and extremism, and he commended Pakistan’s resolve and the steps being taken to tackle terrorism in a comprehensive and robust manner. He welcomed assurances of Pakistan’s intent to dismantle all militant safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks. Building on the concrete results being achieved by operation Zarb-e-Azb, the two leaders discussed Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen governance, expand development, and facilitate the return and rehabilitation of temporarily displaced persons in the tribal areas. Secretary Kerry pledged to continue U.S. support for these efforts and has committed approximately $250 million to assist in the relief, return and rehabilitation of TDPs, and will continue discussions as needs emerge.
- The two leaders expressed satisfaction that the Working Groups constituted under the rubric of the Strategic Dialogue contribute to strengthening bilateral cooperation and advancing shared interests, including in Pakistan’s economic growth, increased trade and energy cooperation, regional stability, and countering extremism and terrorism. Both sides reviewed the progress made by the Working Groups on (1) Economic and Finance; (2) Defense; (3) Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism; (4) Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation; and (5) Energy. The two leaders affirmed their commitment to convene the inaugural session of the Working Group on Education, Science and Technology in 2015. They also acknowledged the importance of ongoing cooperation through assistance authorized under legislation known as the “Kerry-Lugar-Berman” act. Finally, they decided that the Working Groups are to continue meeting according to a mutually determined schedule.
Fostering Economic Growth
- Adviser Aziz and Secretary Kerry reaffirmed their shared commitment to expanding and deepening bilateral economic, trade and investment cooperation. The Economic and Finance Working Group reviewed the progress made in promoting bilateral economic relations in October 2014 in Washington. The United States acknowledged the progress made by Pakistan in steadying its economy and advancing the reform agenda defined by Prime Minister Sharif and his government in close cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral institutions. Secretary Kerry welcomed Pakistan’s efforts to improve its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing framework in cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
- Both sides acknowledged the importance of expanded trade and investment ties as the key to a sustainable, balanced and enduring partnership. Recalling the deliberations of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting in May 2014 in Washington, the two sides committed to work towards smooth and effective implementation of the Joint Action Plan launched at the TIFA meeting. In this regard, Pakistan, while renewing its desire to seek a relationship based on trade and investment, not solely aid, underscored its desire for greater market access for its products through all means available.
- The two sides also renewed their support for the third U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference and the Pakistan-U.S. Economic Partnership Week to be organized in Islamabad to encourage increased bilateral trade and investment.
- Both sides expressed satisfaction with the activities of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council and welcomed the forthcoming launch of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center in Islamabad. In addition, both sides committed to a particular focus on women’s issues in the next meeting of the Economic and Finance Working Group. They also affirmed their commitment to expand the participation of women in the economy under the Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Efforts to Empower Women and Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship.
- Secretary Kerry renewed the U.S. commitment to supporting private sector-led growth in Pakistan. Both leaders also welcomed the completion of the cooperative agreements of the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative (PPII) to leverage private equity for small and medium enterprises, and expressed hope that the financial closure of the projects will begin in 2015. The two leaders also welcomed the launch by USAID of four new partnerships with private-sector banks in Pakistan to improve access to finance for small businesses.
Support for Energy Sector
- The two sides reviewed the progress of the Energy Working Group since it last met in Washington in November 2013. Pakistan thanked the United States for the invaluable assistance in supporting Pakistan’s efforts to resolve its energy crisis. In this regard, Pakistan also thanked the United States for its support for financing of Dasu Hydropower Project by the World Bank and for funding renewable energy projects through USAID and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
- Both countries expressed their satisfaction over the convening of the Diamer Bhasha Dam Project Business Opportunities conference by USAID and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on October 8, 2014, in Washington. The United States reaffirmed its support for exploring the potential of the Diamer Bhasha Project to meet Pakistan’s critical energy and water needs. Pakistan looked forward to the completion of the feasibility study of the Diamer Bhasha Project being conducted by USAID.
- Pakistan and the United States also underscored the importance of intensifying efforts to facilitate regional energy connectivity and continuing to upgrade Pakistan’s transmission infrastructure. Pakistan appreciated the facilitative role of the United States for the Central Asia – South Asia electricity transmission project (CASA-1000).
- Both sides expressed support for cooperation in expanding power generation capacity, including hydroelectric and renewable resources to bring additional capacity to the grid while minimizing the energy sector’s contribution to global climate change; promoting the efficient use of energy resources; fostering development of Pakistan’s gas resources and their efficient utilization; and continuing reforms to the energy sector to ensure its financial sustainability and to attract private sector investment.
Education Sector Cooperation
- The two leaders recalled the shared intent expressed by President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October 2013 to further promote educational and research opportunities, and they welcomed the creation of the Working Group on Education, Science and Technology. They noted that the Working Group is intended to facilitate greater academic linkages and promote scientific and technological research collaboration between educational and research institutions of the two countries to foster economic growth. They looked forward to the early convening of the Working Group meeting.
- Both sides expressed satisfaction at the increase in U.S-Pakistan university partnerships in a range of fields, as well as the wide range of educational exchange programs including the Fulbright Program, to further promote educational and research opportunities for Pakistani students, especially women and girls. Both sides committed to continue working together to increase access and improve the quality of basic education throughout Pakistan.
Defense and Security Cooperation
- The two leaders discussed Pakistan’s continuing efforts to defeat terrorism. Secretary Kerry expressed support for the Pakistan military’s on-going operations in the tribal areas and the progress achieved so far. Secretary Kerry and Adviser Aziz agreed that U.S. security assistance has been effective and well deployed to assist Pakistan in its counterterrorism efforts.
- Both sides expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the 23rd round of the Defense Consultative Group (DCG) held in Washington December 2014 and committed to areas for future defense cooperation. They noted that the DCG Working Group played a role in strengthening cooperation to support both countries’ security interests. Both sides renewed their mutual commitment to a strong defense relationship.
- Both the Adviser and Secretary Kerry condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The Adviser shared his perspective on effective counterterrorism cooperation and stressed that there is no distinction between good and bad militants. Secretary Kerry emphasized the need for effective action against all violent extremists that threaten regional security. The two Leaders emphasized that no country’s territory should be used to destabilize its neighbors. The United States and Pakistan renewed their common resolve to promote peace, stability, and transparency throughout the region and to eliminate the threats posed by extremism and terrorism. Both sides pledged to coordinate and cooperate on UN designations for terrorists.
- Both sides expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism (LECT) working group held in Islamabad on January 12. The Adviser appreciated U.S. support to bolster Pakistan’s counterterrorism (CT) and law-enforcement capacity. Both sides discussed steps to reinforce counterterrorism cooperation, share best practices towards developing a counter-narrative to militancy and violent extremism, enhance the overall rule of law, ensure ongoing cooperation to counter improvised explosives devices, and continue support for Pakistan’s efforts to stabilize the border areas and improve border management.
- Pakistan and the United States attach high importance to preventing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery to states as well as non-state actors. The US and Pakistan stand together in achieving the objectives of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1540, and both have consistently supported and implemented relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
- The United States welcomes Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to harmonize its strategic trade controls with those of the multilateral export control regimes. Furthermore, the Unites States has full confidence in nuclear security in Pakistan and appreciates Pakistan’s proactive engagement with the international community including through its hosting of IAEA training activities at its Nuclear Security Center of Excellence and its active participation in the Nuclear Security Summits.
- In this context, the two sides look forward to continuing the bilateral dialogue on Security, Strategic Stability and Non-Proliferation (SSS&NP). Both sides recognize their shared interest in strategic stability and emphasize their commitment to meaningful progress in the future.
- Secretary Kerry and the Adviser noted that a peaceful, stable, independent, united and prosperous Afghanistan is vital for peace and stability in the region. Secretary Kerry welcomed the renewed and intensified engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, including President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan. Secretary Kerry encouraged continued dialogue and cooperation between both sides, recognizing the importance of cooperation to the stability of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the broader region.
- The two sides recognized that terrorism represents a common challenge to the region that requires common endeavors. They shared their mutual conviction that a stable, well-managed and peaceful Pakistan-Afghanistan border is vital for the success of counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and counter-IED efforts, with complementary coordinated counterterrorism efforts against militants conducted on both sides of the border. Both sides welcomed the steps being taken to strengthen Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral mechanisms for enhanced security cooperation, including measures for effective border management and controls.
- Both delegations recognized that an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process is vital for achieving long-term peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan and the region. They welcomed the call by the new Afghan government to the Afghan Taliban and all armed opposition groups to resolve differences through political means. The Foreign Affairs Adviser reaffirmed that Pakistan would continue to facilitate the efforts of the Afghan government for peace and reconciliation.
- The two sides also concurred that regional economic cooperation is crucial to reinforcing Afghanistan’s national efforts for economic development and deeper regional integration. Secretary Kerry welcomed Pakistan hosting the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in 2015 and congratulated Pakistan on hosting productive Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority meetings earlier this month.
- The Adviser and Secretary Kerry stressed that improvement in Pakistan-India bilateral relations would greatly enhance prospects for lasting regional peace, stability, and prosperity, as it would significantly benefit the lives of citizens on both sides of the border.
- The Foreign Affairs Adviser and Secretary Kerry affirmed their commitment to a long-term and strong partnership between Pakistan and the United States anchored in the enduring friendship between their two peoples, which is not only in the interest of the two countries but also vital for the peace, stability and prosperity of the region. Affirming that both the United States and Pakistan are committed to democracy, human rights, freedom, and respect for international law, the two leaders reiterated their commitment to deepen and enhance the relationship between the peoples of the United States and Pakistan. The two sides committed to meet again for the Ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue in 2016.