Pakistan, once supportive of a Taliban government in Afghanistan, has clarified that it does not want a militant takeover in its north-western neighbourhood.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was on a visit to Washington recently, told the National Public Radio that Pakistan was in favour of the reconciliation process, but said this has to be an Afghan-led process.
“There was a time when there was a Taliban government in Afghanistan and Pakistan felt comfortable with that. But today, we do not want the Taliban to take over Afghanistan,” he said in an interview.
Pakistan was the chief supporter of the Taliban regime from 1996 until it was ousted in a US-led military operation after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
What the American people need to understand is people in Pakistan, democracy in Pakistan -- they are getting their act together, Mr. Qureshi said.
This partnership can really help create a moderate democratic voice in the Islamic world, he said in response to a question.
“What we have said is the process (of reconciliation) should be Afghan led and Afghan owned. We are only here to facilitate if desired. Whatever we can do to achieve the objective of a peaceful, friendly Afghanistan, we’re willing to do that,” he said.
When asked about the anti-US feeling in Pakistan, the foreign minister said there is a need to change the perception of the other in each country.
“I think perceptions have to change on both sides. Often people overlook the positives that have taken place,” he said.
“For example, there was a story in one of your newspapers saying the delegation to the talks is going to be led by the army chief and not the foreign minister.
“Now, there’s another way to look at it and that was for the first time in Pakistan’s history, there is a delegation where the civil leadership is leading the delegation and the military leadership has agreed to come along and they’re speaking with one voice. Now, it’s how you look at it,” he said.
Similarly, in Pakistan, we’ve got to improve American image. And that’s not just improved by doling out money. For example, in 2005 when there was an earthquake in Pakistan, the American doctors, the American helicopters were used to help pull out the injured from the affected areas. That created huge goodwill for the American people and the American government, he said.
Mr. Qureshi did not say anything as to what was the response from the US when he sought a civilian nuclear deal with the US.
“The most important thing is recognising that there is a need to fulfill the energy gap -- that our indigenous resources that can be exploited and we also have the option of civilian nuclear technology,” he said.
“Now, today’s Pakistan is a lot different from what you are referring to. Today we have a very strong and well-recognised command and control structure. American senior officials have commented on that. All the restraints are there and we are in a far better position than anyone else,” Mr. Qureshi said.
Focus is on other means which satisfy Pak energy needs: US
The Obama Administration says it is focused on addressing Pakistan’s energy needs, but through non-nuclear resources.
“Our focus right now is to focus on other means through which to satisfy Pakistan’s energy needs,” Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley told reporters.
He was replying to a question as to why the US is reluctant to provide civilian nuclear energy to Pakistan to address the problem of acute energy shortage.
“It did come up during the course of our discussions,” Mr. Crowley said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his opening remarks at the US-Pak Strategic Dialogue recently had sought non-discriminatory use of available energy resources.
Before the Strategic Dialogue, Mr. Crowley had said that the US would be in a listening mode.
At a joint press availability with Qureshi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had termed the issue as a “complicated” one.
In an interview to a news agency, Qureshi was quoted as saying that he was very satisfied with the talks he had with the US on civilian nuclear deal. However, he refrained from giving any further details about the talks on the issue.
Senator John Kerry, who chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an interview to the Cable of the Foreign Policy, also gave an indication in this regard.
He had said that it is Pakistan which has to take appropriate steps so that not only the Administration and the Congress is convinced about the non-proliferation issues emanating from it, but also America’s international partners, whose help would be required to get the international sanctity of such a deal.
“There are countless things that they would have to do in order to achieve it. If they’re willing to do all those things, we’ll see,” Kerry said.
“Given Pakistan’s history of selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea, such an agreement would realistically be 10 or 15 years away, a senior administration official said on Thursday.
Still, the administration was careful not to dismiss the idea out of hand, The New York Times reported yesterday.