U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Goes Beyond "Talking the Talk"

Posted by Nadia Sheikh
March 29, 2010
Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Qureshi at U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in Washington

About the Author: Nadia Sheikh is an intern in the Office of Pakistan Affairs in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

When I began my internship four weeks ago, there were faint whispers of a possible upcoming U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in late March or early April. With the confirmation of dates less than a week later, everyone in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Office of Pakistan Affairs, as well as countless other offices, began an intense dash to organize the event, set up travel and security plans for the Pakistani delegation, and hone ideas for the plenary and policy breakout sessions. At first, I was a stranger to the long workdays that many at State must work; the Sunday before the meeting, I too spent the day at the office, preparing for escort logistics, which was one of my responsibilities for the dialogue.

When the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue opened on March 24, both countries were optimistic about their vision for the two day event. As she spoke in front of the fireplace of the Ben Franklin room and stately U.S. and Pakistani flags, Secretary Clinton described the dialogue as the “start of something new -- a new phase in our partnership, with a new focus and a renewed commitment to work together to achieve the goals we share: stability, prosperity, opportunity for the people of both Pakistan and the United States.”

Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi echoed similar sentiments to the audience of U.S. officials, Pakistani delegates, and the press. As an observer of this event, and as an American of Pakistani descent, the energy and positive tone of the event was not lost on me. In fact, I was taken aback by the cooperative demeanor and willingness of both the United States and Pakistani delegations in laying out their ideas for the next stage in U.S.-Pakistani relations, a relationship that has been marked by ups and downs in its history.

Equally important, the dialogue wasn't just about "talking the talk” -- the delegations met immediately after the opening session. Through sessions on agriculture, defense and security, economic development and finance, social issues, energy and water, and communications, the participants constructed deliverable goals on the issues that are crucial to both countries. These objectives included agriculture infrastructure assistance through a $30 million allocation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food for Progress program; a proposal for a Defense Planning Exchange in May and a Defense Consultative Group during July or August 2010; a pledge for the United States to work with Pakistan to make progress in the timely implementation of tax system and energy financing reforms; continued and expanded collaboration on improving quality and access to education; cooperation on a range of technological advances to include information technologies and telecommunications such as eLearning, eGovernance, telemedicine, and mobile banking; and mapping out progress on natural gas development and agendas for future discussions on water. On top of these deliverables, a letter of intent was signed to upgrade major road infrastructure in Northwest Pakistan, as well as implementation agreements for three thermal power station rehabilitation projects that will aid in combating electricity shortages in the country. The approval of flight access for Pakistan International Airlines to Chicago, via Barcelona, will also undoubtedly benefit Pakistani and American business travelers and families who want a more accessible route to Pakistan.

In these past few days, the desire to build better linkages politically, socially, and economically between Pakistan and the United States is apparent. As someone who has an interest in a successful partnership of both countries, I can only hope that what emerges out of these next few months, and the future series of talks in Islamabad, will deliver on these significant investments to the benefit of both countries.

Comments

Comments

Aleem
|
New Jersey, USA
March 29, 2010

Aleem in New Jersey writes:

Lets hope that what American taxpayers are paying for does make it to ordinary Pakistanis as a well-wishing gesture from the people of United States.

laila s.
|
Oregon, USA
March 30, 2010

Laila S. in Oregon writes:

Great article- let's hope the talks would be fruitful.

Tanveer B.
|
Oregon, USA
March 31, 2010

Tanveer B. in Oregon writes:

It is encouraging to know that Pakistani Americans are being provided the chance to work at the State Dept - Diversity always helps frame the right policy!

Yawar S.
|
Canada
April 8, 2010

Yawar S. in Canada writes:

We applaud President Obama and Secretary of the State Clinton for recognizing the special and historic relationship between the United States and Pakistan, which changed the world.

Pakistan helped USA -- China rapprochement, leading to President Nixon's historic visit to China, which contributed to global peace, trade and prosperity.

Pakistan was the front-line state fighting the Red Army in Afghanistan, which lead to the collapse of Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, which contributed to world peace. The West and NATO would have spent trillions of dollars had this threat not been eliminated.

Pakistan is again the front-line state, fighting the War on Terror. No other nation has contributed or sacrificed more to assist United States for world peace than Pakistan.

God bless United States - Pakistan historic friendship for world peace and prosperity.

Yawar S.
|
Canada
August 16, 2010

Yawar S. in Canada writes:

The destruction in Pakistan is of biblical proportions. Natural calamity like the unprecedented floods and the man-made calamity like the war on terror, have wreaked havoc by displacing millions of people and destroying millions of acres of farmland. This disater is thousand fold greater than the Haiti earthquake.

This unprecedented calamity, offers the United States a unique opportunity, to provide massive relief and emergency assistance, to help the people of Pakistan. Though the US has been generous, it must deal with this crisis on war footing, as it has unmatched capability to airlift massive relief supplies and avert a catastrophic situation of disease and hunger after the floods recede. Million of people will need to rebuild their houses, farms and lives.

The United States as the leader of the free world, should lead in this "humanitarian" mission, there could be no greater action to win the hearts and minds of the devastated people, by helping them at the time of their desperate need and survival.

Yawar S.
|
Canada
November 4, 2010

Yawar S. in Canada writes:

This is to express gratitude and appreciation from the people of Pakistan for the outgoing U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson. She served with great distinction, working tirelessly in difficult times, promoting friendship and goodwill not only between the governments, but between the people of the United States and Pakistan.

Her dedication and humanity were truly exemplary, she will be greatly missed and always remembered with love as a true friend of Pakistan.

.

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