Welcome to the State Department, and come on up as close as you can. My name is Richard Holbrooke. I am the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it is my great honor today to welcome you, the largest group of Pakistani Americans ever assembled in the State Department, and to introduce our honored host and our honored guest.
Of course, she needs no introduction to this audience. As First Lady, as senator, as Secretary of State, Pakistan and the Pakistani American community are always not far from her heart. Five times she has traveled to Pakistan in these jobs. She knows so many of you personally. She and Foreign Minister Qureshi are the two people who collaborated to lead to the creation of the American Pakistan Foundation, many of whose members and supporters are here today. And that is a creation to which I think history will pay full record.
She is an inspirational leader, a great Secretary of State, especially for Pakistan, and I’m proud to say my dear friend. She’s also my boss, but I didn’t have to say that. (Laughter.) Please join me in welcoming the 67th
Secretary of State of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
Well, thank you very, very much. And thanks to Ambassador Holbrooke, who has done an extraordinary job as our special representative and who you wouldn't believe it, is too modest by far giving me the credit for so much of what we’ve done this past year.
It’s a real pleasure to welcome all of you here to the State Department on an absolutely beautiful spring day. I hope you take advantage of the view out there, which is one of the best in Washington. I know that Secretary – or that Senator Dick Lugar was here. I think he had to leave for votes. I believe that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee is still here, and we’re so happy she is here. (Applause.) And I want to be sure – I can’t see them all the way back, but I know that others who are intending to join are Senator Ted Kaufman, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Congressman John Tierney, and Congressman Ike Skelton.
We’ve had an excellent day for Pakistan-United States relationships with the kickoff of this high-level Strategic Dialogue. And I want to thank Foreign Minister Qureshi and all the members of his delegation for making today’s events possible. Those of us who have experienced Pakistan’s famous hospitality firsthand are delighted to welcome you as our guests. And we hope we will have many more occasions to do so in the future.
Today does mark the beginning of a new stage in the relationship between Pakistan and the United States. With this Strategic Dialogue, we are addressing the full range of interests and concerns that matter to the Pakistani and American people, including national security, economic growth, agriculture, energy, education, health, social progress, with a new level of commitment and focus.
Now, some might ask what really has changed, what makes this dialogue so special. Well, to begin with, this is the first time ever that such a dialogue has been led by a foreign minister and the Secretary of State. We’ve also established new procedures. With this dialogue, we have identified projects in key areas and created a roadmap for making consistent progress. Working groups consisting of experts and policy makers from both countries have been meeting today and will continue meeting tomorrow and will continue meeting for the months ahead. Foreign Minister Qureshi and I will be overseeing that work and we will stay involved in it, and our teams intend to meet again later this year, this time in Pakistan.
But I would add that one of the real features that differentiates this effort from others is all of you. We are joined today by board members from the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council, the American Pakistan Foundation, Pakistani Americans who work for the United States Government, including many who work here at the State Department, and people from across the broader Pakistani American community – business leaders, academics, professionals, citizens from every walk of life. And your presence reminds us of the bonds of friendship and family that connect our countries, the vibrant community that sustains and strengthens this relationship. Ours is a partnership not only between governments, but between people. And people can help us achieve our goals in ways that governments simply cannot.
So we today are charting a new course for the future together, one that is strategic and substantive and that will yield tangible benefits. One of the ingredients for that success will be investments, investments of all kinds. And I am looking at some of the most successful people in our country as I look out and see so many friends here. Business investment is absolutely essential. In this past year, we have seen Pakistan’s economy begin to recover, thanks in part to remittances from Pakistanis and families living overseas. Remittances reached record levels in 2009 and they helped to spark critical economic activity.
But the opportunity to work, to go to school, to start a business, to build a career are still out of reach for too many. And business investment will be absolutely critical for Pakistan’s long-term progress. We all have a stake in Pakistan’s success. And I know that there are so many of you who have Pakistan in your heart and there are so many of you who have business interests in Pakistan, and I would encourage even more of that. We announced today a flight from Pakistan to Chicago via Barcelona, so many of my friends in Chicago will be very happy to hear that. (Applause.)
It is for me a great pleasure to be working on this Strategic Dialogue and to be helping to shape our partnership going forward. And to that end, I have an excellent partner in the foreign minister. He and I have worked so well over the last 15 months during my tenure, and I’m very grateful for his creativity and his leadership. Foreign Minister Qureshi. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI:
Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you for the support that I have received from you and your team. Ladies and gentlemen, I will not be exaggerating if I say that today, the 24th
of March, will be recognized in days to come as a important day in U.S.-Pakistan relations. Because today, we have tried to redirect this relationship into a partnership. And this could only come about realizing that a strategic partnership can only be strategic if it is people-centered. And your presence and your support is what I seek.
I remember the first meeting that many of you attended in New York when we were discussing the idea of the Pakistan American Foundation. There were many who said don’t even venture this way, it’ll not work. But I believe in perseverance, and I believe if you persevere, it commands success. And I have faith and I believe in you, the Pakistani Americans, because I have interacted with some of you. I am getting to know more of you. And the more I interact with you, the more I realize how much you care – how much you care about Pakistan. You are American citizens now, but you still have your heart and soul very much in Pakistan.
And that is why we’ve created a vehicle for you that you will own and direct and give leadership to. We will facilitate. We will not guide nor are we bosses. I’m a democrat and democracy believes in people. I think the best ambassadors Pakistan can have are you people who have done it in a competitive environment, in a challenging environment. You’ve proved your mettle and I am proud of you. And I request you to help Pakistan to strengthen democratic values in Pakistan. After many years, we are back on track.
Today in Pakistan, we have a functioning democracy. Today in Pakistan, I can proudly say we have a very independent judiciary. Today in Pakistan, we have a very independent media. Today in Pakistan, we have a growing, a vibrant civil society. And collectively, we can take Pakistan to the level it ought to go to. We are not a poor country. We are a rich country. We are rich in human capital. We are rich in resources. We only need to utilize them better. And if we can do it, I am confident that we will grow. And very soon, we will grow by 6 to 7 to 8 percent.
And we are determined to push poverty down. We are determined to achieve the goals that the founding fathers of this country – the vision they had for Pakistan and the founder of my party – the economic change, the social change that he promised. We are going to achieve that. And you will help us achieve that goal.
Corporate America can help Pakistan. Today, we’ve created a vehicle to which you can help Pakistan. There are great business opportunities in Pakistan. Yes, there are challenges. Yes, there are difficulties. Yes, we are going through a difficult time. Yes, there is a security situation. I do not deny that. But we will change it. And the last two years of this democratic government, we have shown and we have provided the leadership to bring about that change.
Today, the Taliban are on the run. Today, the militants know that there is a government, and the people of Pakistan and the public opinion of Pakistan are united, and collectively, they are going to defeat them. The armed forces of Pakistan have performed heroically and we are proud of their performance. The ordinary citizen has suffered. Innocent citizens have suffered on account of terrorism. But that has not weakened our resolve. Every casualty makes us more determined to defeat terrorism and to reverse extremism. And we will succeed, because defeat is not an option.
With your help, with your support, and with this new partnership that we are building, I think we will achieve our objectives sooner than expected. So thank you, thank you for being here, thank you for supporting us. (Applause.) Thank you for caring about Pakistan. Whether it was the earthquake or any natural disaster, you have stood out. And taking the lead from the response I got, Madam Secretary, from the Pakistani Americans, your response encouraged me.
And let me share with you, I’m trying to reproduce this model in the United Kingdom. I’ve spoken to David Miliband and I have a group together and we are working, and Inshallah, the next foundation is going to be the Pakistan-UK foundation, because I want to mobilize. I want to mobilize the diaspora – the diaspora that we have all over Europe – educated Pakistanis, capable Pakistanis, caring Pakistanis, to care for our Pakistan. Thank you. (Applause.)