SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. And it is a pleasure to be here to celebrate. It’s also important to be here in this moment for Pakistan, for our friends, not only to celebrate but to support and to work in partnership. And I want to talk a little bit about that, but Foreign Minister, Bilawal, thank you for being here. I am so delighted to see you once again, to see you here at the State Department. We just had a very good, extensive conversation about so many things that we’re working on together, and I’ll touch on a couple of them. But I’m particularly grateful for your presence today with us.
And Dilawar, I just want to thank you not only for those words but for your extraordinary leadership every single day. We’re grateful for it and it’s making a difference, making a difference around the world. Our trade, our commercial, our economic policies are all designed to try to deliver for American workers and families, but also at the same time for our partners. And you’re making that work, so thank you.
And to everyone here today, whether you’re here from the business community, the philanthropic community, NGOs, alumni of some of our exchange programs, current participants in those programs, the Pakistani diaspora, welcome, welcome, welcome to the State Department, and welcome to this wonderful institution that’s part of the State Department. The museum has – continues to grow, as you’ve heard from Susan. I hope you have an opportunity if you haven’t already to take a look upstairs to see some of the exhibits that are already there but more much to come in the years to come.
So we are meeting at what is a tremendously difficult moment for Pakistan. And as you’ve heard – the statistic about the expectant mothers I had not heard. That’s – in and of itself tells you all that you need to know. But the fact is a third of the country remains underwater after the historic and catastrophic storms. About 33 million people are affected. Farmers whose entire harvests have been literally submerged. Families whose homes have been washed away. Children whose schools have been ravaged.
That has an immediate impact, but unless we’re able together to deal with the challenges, will have a long-term impact as well. So we have a sense of urgency, but we also have a sense of determination. The United States – all Americans – extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to our friends in Pakistan, and we send a simple message: We are here for Pakistan just as we’ve been during past natural disasters, both to meet the immediate needs and, as I said, looking ahead to rebuild. And this is something that we talked about just a short while ago.
So far, as you’ve heard, we’ve marshaled over $56 million in immediate humanitarian assistance. We’ve been able to send about 17 planes full of supplies like food and materials to build shelters, tents, tarps. And today I’m pleased to announce another $10 million in food security assistance, which will provide – (applause) – this will provide urgent supplies to help farmers recover, like seeds and fertilizer, assistance repairing critical irrigation infrastructure damaged by the floods.
These efforts, though, are bolstered significantly by the extraordinary generosity of the Pakistani American community and the U.S. private sector, which together contributed another 27 million in essential goods and services – food, water, medicine, health care.
We will continue to stand by Pakistan, to stand by its people, today and in the days to come, because that’s what we’ve done for each other in both directions through much of our shared history. It is fitting today that we’re meeting here at the National Museum of American Diplomacy in the Harry S Truman Building. In 1947, shortly after Pakistan’s independence, President Truman sent a congratulatory letter to Governor-General Jinnah, a leader that he called the originator of the dream that became Pakistan and launched diplomatic relations between our countries that we celebrate now in their 75th year.
For decades, we in the United States have been enriched by the culture of Pakistan, through the poetry of Allama Iqbal, to the songs of the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and a recent Grammy Award winner, Arooj Aftab. (Applause.)
And I have to say that we are profoundly, profoundly better off for the immeasurable contributions of Pakistani Americans as civic leaders in their communities, as U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, and across literally every part of our society. They excel in every walk of professional life from medicine to science to engineering to business to government. Pakistan and the United States have worked together to complete incredibly significant development projects like the Mangla and Tarbela dams, which at one time provided some 70 percent of Pakistan’s power.
We’ve been able together to launch top academic institutions like the Lahore University for Management Sciences, which is training the next generation of business leaders. And we have worked together to confront global threats.
We continue to work closely on counterterrorism issues. We have a shared stake in Afghanistan’s future after two decades of war. We’ve had our differences; that’s no secret. But we share a common objective: a more stable, a more peaceful, and free future for all of Afghanistan and for those across the broader region. We’ll continue to work together toward that end as well as support the basic human rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls.
In our discussions today, we talked about the importance of managing a responsible relationship with India, and I also urged our colleagues to engage China on some of the important issues of debt relief and restructure so that Pakistan can more quickly recover from the floods. We spoke, too, about the importance of meeting our commitments as democracies, upholding core values like respect for freedom of religion, belief, freedom of expression.
We also, critically, talked about ways that we’re deepening our relationship across a number of critical areas, and I just want to spend a quick minute on those, starting with the economic ties that you heard Dilawar speak about just a few minutes ago. I am convinced, we are convinced, that even with some of the positive numbers you’ve heard – the fact that we had a $600 million increase despite COVID is significant, but we’re convinced that we can do more, much more.
One of the most important ways to spur economic growth and prosperity is, for example, through empowering women and girls and ensuring that they can participate fully in the economy. That’s the way not only to help them reach their full potential but to help the economy in the country reach its. It’s also the right thing to do. That’s why we’ve supported that goal for the past decade through something you’ve heard referenced, the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, a platform that, as many of you know from having helped create it, fosters cooperation between corporations, philanthropy, civil society from both countries to advance women’s empowerment in Pakistan.
Through one of their projects, the Pakistan Million Women’s Mentor Initiative, companies like S&P Global, Deloitte, Citi, and others have provided skills training and mentorship for more than 10,000 women entrepreneurs over just the past year alone. And that’s remarkable in and of itself; I am convinced that the ripple effects from that next year, in five years, in 10 years, in 20 years, are going to be significant.
But I think we also both believe deeply that at the heart of our relationship are our people-to-people ties. They continue to grow; they need to grow even stronger. We continue to run 19 Lincoln Corners throughout Pakistan, where more than 300,000 Pakistanis come every year to learn about the United States; to debate ways to improve our society, to both of our societies; to watch some classic American movies, everything from Zootopia to Wreck-It Ralph – (laughter) – sometimes all in the same day. It’s something I’d actually like to be able to do. (Laughter.) Maybe we can find time to break away and catch a movie. (Laughter.)
And we have a thriving network of more than 37,000 alumni of our cultural programs, our exchange programs, throughout Pakistan. They’re making exceptional contributions to the sciences and business and through public service. In fact, as I said, we’re fortunate this afternoon to be joined by several current Fulbright scholars and participants in our International Visitors Leadership Program. We had a chance to meet them briefly before. If you’re here, would you just stand up for a minute? (Applause.)
These friends are the future of the relationship, and I’m convinced that the exchange programs that we have will mean that for years to come, decades to come, generations to come, the relationship will be strong and will grow even stronger. So we’re really grateful for your presence here today, but especially for your participation in these programs.
The alumni that we’ve seen in our programs have done and continue to do really remarkable things in giving back to their societies, to their countries: standing up for the needs of Pakistanis with disabilities, increasing women’s involvement in politics and policy making, providing counseling and health services to displaced people across Pakistan, and so much more. And now they’re in the United States to work on things like advocacy strategies to be even more effective – if that’s possible – in the work they’re doing, but also to share their knowledge, their experience, their perspectives with American students.
This is profoundly a two-way street, and one of the things that I love about the exchange programs is, quite honestly, we get more out of them than anyone else. We are learning through the experiences that are being shared, through the perspectives that are being shared, through the knowledge that’s being shared. So thank you for that as well, because it’s making a difference here in the United States.
Ultimately, it’s connections like these that give me the most hope for the future of this relationship. Our people learn with and from one another so that we can make both of our countries better and deliver even more effectively for our people.
This is a resilient relationship. It’s capable of overcoming challenges that we’ve had to confront. And I am convinced that an even brighter future lies ahead, one that everyone in this room quite literally will be essential to realizing. That’s what we’re counting on all of you to do, to continue to do. So thank you for all of the work that you do to further this noble goal and for the work that you’ll continue to do to build upon the friendship between Pakistan and the United States.
Now it is my great pleasure and an honor to hand the microphone over to my friend, the foreign minister of Pakistan. Bilawal. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER BHUTTO ZARDARI: (In Urdu.)
(In English). It is an absolute honor and a privilege to be here today at the State Department and addressing not only our friends from the U.S. Government but the Pakistani American community. And I’m pleased to report, for all those watching back home and everybody witnessing over here, that it is indeed true, indeed true, that diplomacy is back both here at the State Department – (applause) – and in the foreign ministry of Pakistan.
It has always been a pleasure speaking to the Secretary of State, engaging with the Secretary of State, but I come here at a different time. And I come here at a time when the ground realities in Pakistan have changed fundamentally. We have experienced a climate catastrophe of biblical, apocalyptic proportions. It rained and rained and rained and rained and rained from mid-June till the end of August. And when the rain finally stopped, a hundred-kilometer lake formed in the middle of my country that’s slowly descending to the sea, to the ocean.
As a result, a third of my country under water, more than the land mass of the United Kingdom; 33 million people – more than the population of Australia, more than the population of New Zealand, more than the population of New York State, or 95 percent of the population of Canada. As Dilawar said, 600,000 women, pregnant women, are waiting to give birth in the open. Of the 33 million people affected, 16 million are children. Of the 1,600 deaths that we’ve had so far, a third of them have been children.
And Mr. Secretary of State, the irony of this is that Pakistan has contributed 0.8 percent to the global carbon output, but we are amongst the 10 most climate-stressed countries on the planet. And that’s why we look to you for assistance and support so we can get our people climate justice. I think that your president has shown incredible leadership when it comes to the issue of climate both here domestically and congratulate him and your administration on the historic legislation that has been passed at home, but it’s not only important that you build back better here. The opportunity in this crisis in Pakistan is that we must build back better, greener, more climate-resilient back home as well.
And I believe that working together we can do this, working together not only with the Government of the United States and our friends in the international community. We’re working with the private sector, working with the private sector here in the United States and working with the private sector at home. I am convinced that we can build back. We will build a more climate-resilient Pakistan. We will build a greener Pakistan. We will create green opportunities and green jobs, and opportunities not only for our country and not only for our private sector, but for those across the world that will be willing to invest in Pakistan.
Mr. Secretary of State, when my grandfather was the foreign minster of Pakistan – the commerce minister of Pakistan, the foreign minister of Pakistan, and then the prime minister of Pakistan – there was what was called the Green Revolution, and that Mangla Dam and Tarbela Dam that you mentioned – those massive infrastructure projects – they’re from the 1960s and the 1970s. It is – now it is the time for a new Green Revolution, and we hope – nay, we expect – the American Government, particularly led by President Biden, to lead the way. I think that despite the devastation, despite the destruction, this is the opportunity – nay, this is the challenge – for us to be able to act. And we’re incredibly grateful to the U.S. Government for their initial $1 million, then $33 million, then $55 million and today, after your announcement of the $10 million, we have reached the $60 million mark.
We’ve been incredibly engaged ever since I’ve been foreign minister with yourself, with your administration. We’re incredibly grateful to Mr. Dilawar Syed, (inaudible), Samantha Power, the congressional delegation, everybody that has come and visited Pakistan so far, and we look forward to the opportunity of hosting you someday soon.
I absolutely agree that the Pakistan-U.S. relationship is not only resilient, we have stood the test of time. And we’ve proved throughout history that when we work together, we achieve great things. And I believe that when we don’t work together, then we fumble, then we falter, then things go wrong. And I would like the opportunity to once again not only thank you but thank your incredibly hardworking team that have been working with their counterparts, who are also incredibly hardworking, around the clock and that we’ve managed to make this progress and enhance the cooperation between the United States and America[i].
And the sky is the limit. I’ve been engaging with the private sector, particularly those of the Pakistani American community, and they are patriotic Pakistanis and they are patriotic Americans, and they contribute here to America and they are keen to contribute to Pakistan. This is a challenge for the new generation. I believe our relationship that’s in the past is the legacy of the leadership of the past, and now it is a test for us that how we take this relationship forward. Here’s to another 75 years of Pakistan-U.S. relationships. (In Urdu). (Applause.)