The visiting Pak Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has sought a reliable and achievable plan from the US on Afghanistan and pushed for a free trade agreement between the two countries.
In what officials described as a “frank and open discussion” on the present state of relations and the challenges and opportunities ahead, Ms. Khar in her meeting with members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged Senators to clarify exactly what it wants in Afghanistan, and outline a realistic plan to achieve it.
This would instil confidence in the allies, especially Pakistan, Ms. Khar said.
While the U.S. intends to end its military engagement in the region, this is Pakistan’s neighborhood and it would be left to deal with the consequences of any actions or decisions that are made now, she observed.
“I am encouraged by the frank discussion that we had -- I think it is important to have discussion because we had too much mistrust and fears which have inhibited the course of our relations in the past,” Ms. Khar told reporters after the meeting.
During her meeting, Ms. Khar made a strong case for greater market access for Pakistan products in the U.S.
Pakistan is hopeful that at some point soon the two countries will negotiate a free trade agreement that would open up both Pakistani and U.S. markets to products made by the other, she said.
In the short term, Pakistan is urging the U.S. to put together a trade package that would give greater access to Pakistani products now and thus strengthen the Pakistani economy, she said, arguing that a democratic and economically viable Pakistan is the strongest weapon to defeat the terrorist threat in South and Central Asia.
Ms. Khar expressed satisfaction that the Pak-U.S. bilateral relationship had weathered a very difficult period over last 18 months, and that relations were clearly improving, laying the foundation for an even more robust special relationship between the two nations in the future.
On the question of cross border insurgency and the use of IEDs in Afghanistan, Ms. Khar prescribed more information sharing and coordination of actions at all levels.
Reiterating that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the national interest of Pakistan, she said Afghanistan is a sovereign and independent nation and Pakistan will treat it as nothing less.
Pakistan continues to advise against an exclusive reliance on use of force in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said adding that the process of reconciliation must move forward, and it must be Afghan-led and Afghan-based.
Later at a press stake out, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Kerry, characterized the U.S. relationship with Pakistan as very important, recognized the need to build mutual trust, critical to the outcome of the lingering Afghan war.
Responding to questions on increasing demand of lawmakers to cut US aid to Pakistan, Kerry argued that this is not going to happen as this is not the view of the majority.