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What Strategic Dialogue?

Posted By Web Editor On October 19, 2010 @ 2:47 pm In Afghanistan, Columnists, Foreign Meddling, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Terrorism, Military, Pak-US Dialogue, Terrorism, United States, War To Cripple Pakistan, War on Terror | 7 Comments


US support to Pakistan is limited to papers and statements. Washington opposes Pakistan’s energy choices, opposes a nuke deal with China, opposes gas from Iran, and is undermining Pakistani interests. Time for Pakistan to draw a line.


By TAYYAB SIDDIQUI | Monday, 18 October 2010 | The News International


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Intensive discussions and high-level meetings are taking place in preparation for the forthcoming meeting of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington scheduled to begin on Friday. It will be the third round of the dialogue. The last was held in Islamabad in July.

The idea of the Strategic Dialogue is to promote the “strategic partnership” outlined in 2006 during President Bush’s Islamabad visit. It started off on a high note. The joint statement issued by Presidents Musharraf and Bush underscored the determination of the two leaders “to strengthen the foundation for a strong, stable and enduring relationship.” The statement identified a large spectrum of issues related to bilateral ties, ranging from economic ties, trade and investment, to a “robust defense relationship that advances shared security goals”.

The Strategic Dialogue was to be chaired by top officials of the Pakistani foreign ministry and the US State Department, the foreign secretary in Pakistan’s case, but was raised to ministerial level in October 2009 during Hillary Clinton’s visit to Pakistan. The Pakistani foreign minister and the US secretary of state were “to meet regularly to review issues of mutual interest” and to “undertake steps in areas of economic growth and prosperity, energy, peace and security, social-sector development, science and technology, democracy and non-proliferation”. Despite these lofty goals and the ambitious agenda, there has hardly been any movement towards the fulfillment of any of these objectives.

To ensure a significant expansion of bilateral ties, including mutual trade and investment, a “key step” was conclusion of a Bilateral Investment Treaty. Negotiations have since continued but the BIT has yet to see the light of day.

Decisions were taken “to explore ways to meet Pakistan’s growing energy needs and strengthen its energy security” and develop public-private collaboration. Considering Pakistan’s severe energy crisis, nothing correspondingly serious or urgent has been done, except for a pledge of $125 million announced by Secretary Clinton in 2009.

The amount is meant to be utilized to upgrade the thermal power stations at Guddu, Jamshoro and Muzaffargarh. The progress, if any, is only on paper. Meanwhile, the US has openly opposed Pakistan’s agreement with Iran for a gas-pipeline project to meet its critical energy requirements.

Pakistan’s request for a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one the US has signed with India has been rejected, in view of Pakistan’s “track record” in the nuclear field. There is little hope of any softening in the US attitude over this point.

Foreign Minister Qureshi is reported to have raised this issue before his interlocutors during his recent visit to Washington, and though he claimed that “the talks were very satisfactory” the facts do not corroborate his statement. A senior US official bluntly stated that such a deal “is not on the table, and the Pakistani views are well-understood and we listen carefully to them.”

To put Pakistan on the defensive, the US authorities have renewed the demand for access to Dr A Q Khan and expressed opposition to China’s building the Chashma nuclear reactor.

During his Senate confirmation hearings last month, US ambassador-designate to Pakistan Cameron Munter declared: “I intend to raise the question again of our repeated requests to have our people be able to interview Khan.” Questioning Ambassador Munter during the hearing, Senator Richard Lugar also expressed his concerns over Pakistan’s control on its nuclear inventory. The State Department has also opposed Sino-Pakistani nuclear cooperation, in particular China’s plan to build two reactors, holding it a violation of the Nuclear Supply Group (NSG) regime, ignoring the fact that US companies have similar agreements to sell reactors to India.

The three major dimensions of our relations – trade and investment, energy and defense – have failed to register any major development during the last four years. Hence, to accredit this dialogue process with any tangible significance would be too optimistic.

There are a host of other issues, such as US violations of Pakistan’s air space, the increasingly deadly drone attacks, delayed payments of the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF), supply of defense equipment and strategic issues which are not in the public domain will form the staple of the discussions in the fourth round.

What has the so-called Strategic Dialogue or Strategic Partnership delivered for Pakistan? One may also ask what happened to the 56-pages dossier that the Pakistani delegation submitted to the US in the previous round.

The US policy regarding the Strategic Dialogue has been in conformity with its own national objectives, and that element in itself cannot be faulted. But we need to outline our national agenda and draw the red line, even if belatedly. Washington needs to be told that the partnership cannot work without the United States meeting reciprocal obligations and that both sides must work only within the agreed parameters.

Our leadership should not take at face value President Obama’s assurances that the US is “seeking long-term engagement and will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent.” Once the US makes a safe and (honorable?) exit from Kabul, Pakistan will merely receive the attention deserving of a “world’s 5th most unstable country”, in the words of the State Department’s Global Peace Index (GPI) report released in June.


Mr. Siddiqui is a former ambassador and an adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This op-ed appeared in The News International. Reach him at


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