SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. Once again, let me welcome our friends from Pakistan and representatives from the United States Government to the Ben Franklin Room here on the 8th floor of the State Department in Washington, D.C. It is an honor for me to open our third cabinet-level meeting this year of the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Pakistan.
I’m particularly delighted to have a number of U.S. cabinet officials joining us this morning, as well as so many ministers who have made the long trip from Pakistan. The number of agencies and ministries participating in this dialogue is a testament to our shared commitment to a deep, broad, and enduring relationship between our two countries. I would particularly like to thank my colleague, Foreign Minister Qureshi, for his stewardship of this expanding enterprise.
On a personal note, I want to recognize Ambassador Anne Patterson, who is with us and has done an extraordinary job representing the United States in Islamabad at a critical time in our history. And it will be my privilege, Anne, to present you with the Secretary’s award for Outstanding Service, and welcome home. (Applause.)
I would also like to introduce our distinguished new ambassador, Cameron Munter, who is here and will be departing on Islamabad on Sunday. Cameron comes to this post with a great deal of experience, and I know he’s looking forward to getting to know and working with all of the Pakistani officials.
In March, we came together in this Strategic Dialogue to discuss how to help the Pakistani people in the areas that Pakistani people themselves had identified as their most important concerns. We actually thought we would try something different in the history of our relationship, and that is listening to each other and learning from each other. And In July, we announced a series of signature projects in water and electricity. This week, we are going even further with new agreements to cooperate on projects ranging from building dams and water storage systems to expanding national radio coverage.
In the time since we last met, one event, however, has dominated all of our work together – the horrible floods of this summer, which covered more than one-fifth of the entire country and affected more than 20 million people. The American people were deeply saddened by the loss of life; the destruction of so many homes, farms, and businesses; and the long-term damage to Pakistan’s infrastructure and economy.
When I visited Pakistan the first time last year, I met people whose lives had been shattered by the violence in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley. Now many of those same areas have been flooded, and my heart goes out especially to those who have endured such terrible calamities.
I know that there are so many stories of individual challenges, but also so many of resilience. One woman that I had met lives in a village where all the roads and bridges have now been washed away. The people have moved into temporary housing, but the winter is coming. They need concrete homes. And after the snow falls, and the temporary roads are blocked, the village will be cut off and the cement trucks won’t be able to get in. Communities throughout Pakistan are having similar problems. So we are accelerating our efforts to help provide cash to people whose houses have been destroyed, so that they can quickly rebuild.
And this morning, I want to send a special message to the people of Pakistan: We have stood with you, and we will keep standing with you to help you not just cope with the aftermath of the floods, but to get back on the path to prosperity.
The United States was very proud working with the Pakistani Government and military to help with the rescue operations and to help pick up thousands and thousands of stranded Pakistanis and to deliver millions of pounds of refugee supplies, as well as $390 million in relief and recovery aid. But we know there is so much more work to be done. And we know that in some places, aid has yet to arrive and millions of people are still homeless. But we are working closely with the Government of Pakistan and our international partners, and we will continue to do all we can to help you.
And I believe that the need to look beyond the immediate to the future is a very important part of this help, because we have to begin to figure out how to help you rebuild the infrastructure and, once again, get commerce going, get the agricultural community replanted and building toward a better harvest.
Since our last Strategic Dialogue meeting in July in Islamabad, each of the 13 working groups has now finalized an action plan, a blueprint for cooperation between our two countries. We now have a plan to immunize against disease 90 percent of Pakistani children. We have a plan to improve the reliability of electricity supply to the Pakistani people. And yesterday, we began distributing wheat and vegetable seed as part of a broader plan to help half a million farming families get back on their feet.
These plans are already being put into action. For example, the working group on energy devised a plan to shore up the country’s existing energy infrastructure and develop new sources of power. Since we last met, we have ordered the equipment for four power plants. And we will soon complete a public-private partnership that will build a 150-megawatt wind farm in Sindh Province to tap the enormous potential of the winds that blow down the Pakistani coast. And as these projects come on line, we will look to the Pakistani Government to implement systematic reform of their energy sector.
Working groups have also been involved in collaborating on new scientific projects, in fact, 27 new projects, including research on deadly diseases like hepatitis and tuberculosis with joint funding from both governments. And tomorrow, six water experts from Pakistani provinces will visit New Orleans to study the flood relief and reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina. We hope that Pakistan can benefit from the painful lessons that we have learned, and the efforts we have made to rebuild a great city.
Finally, we are also cooperating on military matters. And I want to say publicly what many of us have said privately: The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counterterrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan. We recognize and appreciate the sacrifice and service that the men and women, particularly the soldiers of the military in Pakistan, have made in order to restore order and go after those who threaten the very institutions of the state of Pakistan.
The military working group has had productive discussions this week about our work together to combat terrorism and eliminate violent extremism and the organizations that promote it that are operating in Pakistan. These groups threaten the security, first and foremost, of the people of Pakistan, of neighbors of the United States and indeed of the world.
In keeping with our enduring commitment to help Pakistan plan for its defense needs, I am pleased to announce our Multi-Year Security Assistance Commitment to Pakistan. We will request $2 billion in foreign military assistance from Congress for 2012 through 2016. This will complement the $7.5 billion in civilian projects that has already been approved in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation. Later this morning, Secretary Gates will update you on other aspects of our bilateral military discussions.
So, this is a full and comprehensive agenda. And in this dialogue, we are very proud to be your partner. And we will continue to support you as you take the tough decisions necessary to create progress and prosperity for the people of Pakistan. Now, reforming Pakistan’s tax system is one area in which tough decisions will have to be made, because it will serve a broad, double purpose. A broader tax base will mean more funding for roads, bridges, power plants, and airports, all essential elements of a growing economy. And it will demonstrate to the international community that all segments of Pakistani society are willing to do their own part to rebuild their own country. So we are tackling some of the toughest problems. Nothing is being swept under the rug. And I have to say I am so impressed by the quality of our engagement from both the government and the people of Pakistan.
As we move ahead, let us be inspired by the people whose lives we have a chance to touch. The little boy we recently heard about who goes back every day to play in the pile of bricks that used to be his home – his parents will soon be able to rebuild. The farmer whose fields were flooded will soon have the seed and fertilizer to start again, the babies who will grow up healthy, the girls who will go on to get an education, and all of the people who will see that they can be part of a new future for Pakistan.
So I want now to invite my colleague and friend, Minister Qureshi, who has co-chaired this dialogue with me, to begin by making his own comments. Minister Qureshi.
FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: Secretary Clinton, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your gracious remarks. I’m delighted to be in Washington again. We’re grateful for the warm welcome and the gracious hospitality accorded to us since our arrival here. My delegation includes several colleagues from the civil and military institutions in Pakistan who are making an enormous contribution to this process, and I thank them for their efforts. I also express our appreciation for the rich contributions of so many senior members of the U.S. delegation who have been associated with this process from the outset.
Madam Secretary, it is the third time that we are meeting for the Strategic Dialogue within a year. This in itself is a significant achievement. But essentially, it is a reflection of the importance that both our nations attach to this vital relationship, so critical for peace and stability in the region and beyond. It is also a reflection of the broad range of areas in which we want and need to work together to broaden and deepen our multifaceted cooperation and to advance our shared goal of building a strategic partnership.
I must acknowledge, Madam Secretary, with appreciation and gratitude your personal support for this shared endeavor. Your personal reach-out to the people of Pakistan has left a deep imprint on the hearts and minds of our people. Abiding goodwill and friendship among our people is indeed a critical constant of the success of our common efforts.
Madam Secretary, we are meeting today in the backdrop of the devastating floods in Pakistan. This has been a natural calamity of unprecedented proportions. Few weeks and months, ravaging floodwaters ravaged our land and displaced tens of millions of our people. The floods did not just claim precious lives and cause damage to homes, livelihoods, and infrastructure. The floods stole the dreams of millions of Pakistanis and shattered their hopes for a better future. The floods also decelerated the growth of our national economy and set back our poverty alleviation efforts and reversed years of development gains.
Madam Secretary, the flood disaster tested the mettle of Pakistani nation once again, and our people have proved their resilience yet again. The whole Pakistani nation was mobilized with the government, the armed forces, civil society, media, and private citizens actively participating in the country-wide national effort for rescue and relief. But we could not have done what we have been able to do without the support and solidarity of our friends abroad.
Madam Secretary, we truly appreciate the international community’s helpful efforts which were spearheaded by the United States. I would remiss, Madam Secretary, if I did not acknowledge, on behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan your personal leadership and contribution to the efforts to keep a global spotlight on this disaster and to mobilize international support and assistance. I take this opportunity to express our profound gratitude for your role.
I also express our sincere thanks to the American people whose compassion in Pakistan’s time of need has been deeply touching. We vividly remember the 2005 earthquake when American Chinooks were called the angels of mercy as they helped save thousands of lives. Such angels of mercy reappeared on the horizons to evacuate tens of thousands of people to safe locations and to deliver relief supplies to many more. This is a testament to the innate goodness of the American people and their commitment to humanitarian values.
Madam Secretary, the waters are now receding and we have initiated the early recovery phase, but the long and hard road to rehabilitation and reconstruction lies ahead. The challenges are immense. We must help the millions of affected people to rebuild their homes, businesses, and communities. Above all, we must help them renew their hopes and restart their lives. It will be tough, we know, but we also know that we will not be alone in this undertaking.
Madam Secretary, Pakistan and the United States have been allies and friends before. We have a history of cooperation in meeting some of the great challenges of the post Second World War period. However, the kind of engagement we have had for the last few years has never been witnessed before. This is the first time that the relationship is founded on shared ideals of democracy, mutual respect, and trust.
This is also the first time that on the Pakistani side the relationship is driven by a democratically elected government, and this is the first time that the two sides are making a deliberate effort to place the citizens of Pakistan as the main beneficiaries of this relationship.
I know that a relationship built on such foundations is bound to endure. Madam Secretary, just look at the range of issues on which we are working in the Strategic Dialogue: 13 areas in all, each is a world in itself. We have working groups on each of these areas. They have had at least two extensive sessions on identifying priorities and areas of cooperation. Working documents have been exchanged. I believe that this session of the Strategic Dialogue marks the consolidation of our partnership. This is an earnest exercise to create a better understanding of each other’s perspectives.
This is necessary to bring about the policy alignments and take pragmatic steps for a quiet cooperation and coordination at the operational level. We have to move toward timeliness and benchmarks to measure progress and lend a result-oriented approach to the entire process. Ten of the 13 working groups met in the last two days. The reports I have received of their deliberations are encouraging. Tangibles should be coming out of these deliberations soon.
There is much to celebrate in the Pakistan-U.S. friendship. It bodes well for both countries. But let us not forget that we are once again engaged as partners in a momentous challenge, a momentous struggle. I would call it the defining struggle of our times. I am, of course, referring to our joint fight against terrorism. We are fighting an enemy that offers no quarter, obeys no law, and holds nothing sacred. We have both lost valuable lives. In case of Pakistan, nearly 30,000 civilians have lost their lives, and the ordinary Pakistani citizens brave a daily fare of suicide bombings as they go about their lives. Nearly 7,000 of our valiant law enforcement officials have perished in this fight, more than the combined loss of lives of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, it unfortunately seems easy to dismiss Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices. There are still tongue-in-cheek comments even in this capital about Pakistan’s heart not really being in this fight. We do not know what greater evidence to offer than the blood of our people. Madam Secretary, we are determined to win this fight.
The Pakistan our adversary wants will not be a Pakistan that the vast majority of citizens want to live in. We have no doubts about who are enemy is and what we must do to defeat it. I wish to show you that Pakistan will not allow any space to terrorists on its territory. Violence against innocent people is unacceptable. It cannot be justified on any ground. As such, there can be no distinction between good and bad terrorists. Pakistan and the United States share the goal of defeating terrorism. This requires close contacts and constant coordination at the policy and at the operational levels. Policy alignment and better communication and coordination are key to our mutual success in the fight against terror.
Pakistan and the U.S. need to cooperate more closely in bringing stability and peace in Afghanistan. We also hope that our consultation and cooperation on issues of regional peace, security, and stability will continue to make a salutary impact on the overall environment.
Madam Secretary, might I also avail myself of this opportunity to underscore the importance that we attach to your support for Pakistan economic recovery and sustained development. The elected government continues to pursue a macroeconomic stabilization program that has been chalked out in consultation with international financial institutions. We are in the process of reordering our economic priorities to meet the flood contingency. National resources are being mobilized for the massive reconstruction effort. We are also mindful of the need for a cost-effective program delivery. Accountability, transparency, and efficient utilization of resources are very much an important part of our government’s agenda, and we have developed effective mechanisms for these goals.
When we launched our dialogue earlier this year, we were cognizant of the challenges and the opportunities that lay before us. Among other things, we recognized that there would be skepticism, smear and even setbacks. We knew that as friends and allies, we would have, at times, differences of opinion, indeed honest disagreements, but we also knew that we have the requisite political will and robust engagement to help us resolve such momentary challenges. Today, more then ever before, we remain convinced that a comprehensive, long-term, and enduring partnership is in the strategic interest of both our countries. We remain clear that such a partnership rests on the principles of mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual benefit. We have stated it before and I reiterated again Pakistan’s sovereignty is and will remain non-negotiable. I have no doubt, Madam Secretary, that we can surmount any momentary challenge with clarity and sensitivity about our respective commitments, concerns and core interests.
Some recent developments have prompted certain quarters to speculate on the strength and resilience of our tested relationship. Prophets of doom are back in business painting doomsday scenarios about our alliance. They are dead wrong. I also have no doubt that we will yet again prove the naysayers are wrong with the strength of our resolve, the depth of our engagement, and the endurance of our alliance.
Madam Secretary, Pakistan and the United States have a shared interest in a peaceful and stable South Asia. Unfortunately, the prospect is threatened again by the recent events in Kashmir. People of conscience have protested the use of force against the defenseless people of Kashmir, in particular targeting of the Kashmiri youth, which has claimed over hundred lives in the past three months. But the Kashmiri mothers are baffled at the deafening silence of the world leadership.
History has proved that the force of arms cannot suppress the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people. It is in the U.S. strategic interest to work for peace, stability, and resolution of the disputes in South Asia. The starting point in this quest is justice for the Kashmiri people. President Obama has always understood the importance of a Kashmir solution. His coming visit to the region is the time to begin to redeem the pledge that he made earlier.
Madam Secretary, I wish to underline that this dialogue and the Pakistan-U.S. partnership have profound consequences for our two nations and for international peace and security. A heavy responsibility therefore devolves on us to nurture it carefully. I reaffirm our determination that Pakistan will do its upmost to contribute to this worthy cause and to make our partnership a critical factor of peace, stability, and prosperity at the regional and international level.
Madam Secretary, as I conclude, I want to express our appreciation and gratitude to your team for their painstaking efforts to make this round of meetings a success. They’ve drawn up a most impressive program designed to extract the most benefit out of the process.
I look forward to welcoming you in Islamabad for the next round and hope we will show the same professionalism that your side put on display here.
I thank you, Madam.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there is no worry about that, Minister Qureshi, having been in Islamabad for the last meeting and received the excellent work that your team has been doing.