U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Pakistan Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, accompanied by a high-level delegation, met in Washington on January 27, 2014, for the Ministerial meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue. The first Ministerial since the revitalized Strategic Dialogue was announced during Secretary Kerry’s August 2013 visit to Pakistan, this session built on Prime Minister Sharif’s October 2013 official visit. Reaffirming the strong relationship and enduring partnership between the two countries, the Strategic Dialogue Ministerial marked the commitment of both countries to strengthen the bilateral relationship and advance their shared interests in a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan and region. Both sides expressed their conviction that an enduring U.S.-Pakistan partnership is vital to regional and international security. They recognized their shared interest in Pakistan’s economic growth, increased trade, regional stability, and mutually determined measures to counter extremism and terrorism.
Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue and reviewed the progress of the Strategic Dialogue’s five working groups: 1) Energy; 2) Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation; 3) the Defense Consultative Group; 4) Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism; and 5) Economics and Finance. Meetings of the first three working groups convened in late 2013.
Building a Foundation for Inclusive Economic Growth
Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz reaffirmed their commitment to expanding bilateral trade and business links and welcomed the upcoming United States-Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting in March 2014 in Washington, D.C. The Secretary underscored the U.S. commitment to supporting private sector-led growth in Pakistan and welcomed the proposal by Advisor Aziz to regularly convene a Joint Business and Investment Forum, involving the private sector. Both sides also look forward to convening a follow-on conference to the successful U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conferences held in Dubai in June 2013, and to a U.S.-convened conference in April 2014 in Islamabad that will link Pakistani and Central Asian businesses to encourage increased regional trade. They also look forward to the forthcoming announcement of a third fund of the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative (PPII) to leverage private equity for small and medium enterprises. Additionally, they reaffirmed the agenda for the upcoming Economics and Finance Working Group, to be held in April 2014 in Washington, D.C., where the United States and Pakistan will discuss trade and investment promotion, economic assistance, and regional economic integration. They further proposed that the working groups continue to refine the benchmarks used to realize these goals.
Alleviating Pakistan’s Energy Crisis
Strategic Dialogue participants, including Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Asif, reviewed concrete next steps from the Energy Working Group, which was held in Washington in November 2013, as well as a subsequent trade delegation to Houston, Texas. The two sides expressed satisfaction with discussions held in November 2013 on a range of options to enable Pakistan to overcome its energy deficiencies. The two sides noted progress in developing a U.S. technical assistance program to support the development of Pakistan’s domestic natural gas reserves. Secretary Kerry highlighted that U.S. assistance in the energy sector has added over 1,000 megawatts of power to Pakistan’s national grid, helping provide power to over 16 million Pakistanis. In addition, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the development finance institution of the U.S. government, is currently working on financing up to 300 MW of wind power generation projects that will deploy U.S.-based investment in Pakistan.
The United States and Pakistan also underscored the importance of intensifying efforts to facilitate regional energy connectivity and continuing to upgrade Pakistan’s transmission infrastructure. Pakistan welcomed the recent U.S. commitment of $15 million in support of the Central Asia-South Asia electricity transmission project (CASA-1000) that will help create a regional energy grid to link Central and South Asia for the first time. Both sides expressed support for cooperation in expanding power generation capacity; promoting the efficient use of energy resources; fostering development of Pakistan’s gas resources and their efficient utilization; increasing utilization of hydroelectric and renewable resources; and continuing reforms to the energy sector to ensure its financial sustainability and to attract private sector investment.
Strengthening educational linkages and people to people contacts
Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz discussed the important role of investments in education in helping prepare Pakistan’s younger generation to enter the job market and become leaders in their country and communities. They reaffirmed the shared intent expressed by President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif in October 2013 to further promote educational and research opportunities for Pakistani students, scholars, and researchers in U.S. institutions.
Deepening Cooperation on Shared Security Challenges
Secretary Kerry, Advisor Aziz, and their respective delegations had constructive conversations on security, strategic stability, and Pakistan’s intensified efforts to combat terrorism. Secretary Kerry thanked Advisor Aziz for Pakistan’s efforts to help defeat Al-Qaeda and expressed appreciation for the sacrifices of Pakistan’s military personnel and civilians in the fight against terrorism and extremism. The Defense Consultative Group (DCG) annual engagement is the key bilateral forum for discussing the U.S.-Pakistan security relationship and defense cooperation. The DCG last met in November 2013, and both sides renewed their commitment to pursuing a forward-looking, transparent, and politically sustainable defense relationship in areas of mutual interest. The United States expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s continued contribution to regional maritime security, and both sides reaffirmed the decision by President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif to strengthen their cooperation in this area.
A follow-on Defense Resourcing Conference (D.R.C.) in February 2014 will focus on security assistance issues. The United States and Pakistan will participate in the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, and both countries look forward to continuing the bilateral dialogue on security, strategic stability, and non-proliferation (SSSNP). Secretary Kerry expressed confidence in Pakistan’s commitment and dedication to nuclear security and appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts to improve its strategic trade controls. He also recognized that Pakistan is fully engaged with the international community on nuclear safety and security issues.
Both sides welcomed plans to convene the Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism Working Group in March in Washington, DC. During that meeting, the two countries look forward to discussing counterterrorism cooperation and assistance, as well as additional joint steps to counter improvised explosive devices (IED), disrupt terrorist financing, and improve border management. Both Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and Secretary Kerry expressed appreciation for the steps taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Government of Pakistan to combat terrorism. 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.
Advancing Regional Peace and Stability
Recognizing the paramount importance of regional stability, Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz stressed that a peaceful, stable, independent, and united Afghanistan is in the interest of the region, and affirmed the important role of countries in the region in supporting Afghanistan’s progress toward stability and prosperity. Both sides emphasized their support for a policy of non-interference in Afghanistan, including by all countries of the region.
Both sides also reaffirmed that Afghan-led peace and reconciliation is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability of Afghanistan and the region. They noted Pakistan’s important role in supporting Afghan-led reconciliation, and Secretary Kerry expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s concrete efforts in this regard. Both sides reiterated their call on the Taliban to join the political process and enter into dialogue with the Afghan government. Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz reiterated that peace and reconciliation must respect the historic achievements that Afghanistan has made over the past decade. Both sides shared their mutual conviction that a stable and peaceful Pakistan-Afghanistan border was important for the success of counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and counter-IED efforts, and that cross-border militancy was a serious threat to both countries. They thus underscored the critical significance of improved border control in achieving these objectives.
Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz also recognized the potential for enhanced stability and prosperity from improved bilateral relations between Pakistan and India, benefiting the lives of citizens on both sides of the border. Toward that end, the United States welcomed Prime Minister Sharif’s vision for a peaceful neighborhood and efforts for the economic uplift of the people of the region, including steps taken by Pakistan and India to improve their relations.
An Enduring Partnership
Noting with satisfaction the overall progress of the Strategic Dialogue and of its various working groups, Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz affirmed the utility of continuing to refine the goals and benchmarks by which we measure success, to further promote bilateral cooperation. In this context, both sides looked forward to the next Ministerial meeting of the Strategic Dialogue to review progress in implementing our shared goals.
Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz reaffirmed their commitment to further advancing the strong partnership between the two countries through the Strategic Dialogue and stressed the importance of a U.S.-Pakistan partnership built on a foundation of mutual interest and respect.