ISLAMABAD: The United States agreed on Tuesday to fulfil Pakistan’s urgent defence needs in the fight against terror.
“Recognising the enduring security requirements on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the two delegations agreed to cooperate on a prioritised set of Pakistan’s defence requirements,” a statement issued at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group said.
Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Asif Yasin Malik and the US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, Dr James Miller, led their sides at the talks held in Rawalpindi.
Officials from both countries identified areas of future defence cooperation for achieving shared objectives and committed to a “strong defence relationship”.
It was not clear what military hardware would be provided to Pakistan to meet urgent requirements in the fight against militants in tribal areas. Pakistan’s intended shopping list has always been a very long one, but there are some critical needs, like spares for maintenance of helicopter fleet.
The decision on furnishing Pakistan’s defence requirements appears to have been made in principle.
Officials from both sides will meet in Washington in March for a follow-up session where Pakistan will present its wish list. The Pakistani delegation will be led by the defence production secretary.
The 21st meeting of the consultative group marked the resumption of defence talks under the ‘strategic dialogue’ after a break of almost 18 months. The last meeting took place in May last year.
Although the dialogue at the ministerial level remains suspended since the challenging events of last year, some of its segments related to law enforcement, economy and defence have resumed following a recent improvement in ties.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after their talks in Brussels on Monday, welcomed these meetings and said they looked forward to meetings of the working groups on energy and strategic stability.
Foreign Minister Khar had said in an interview earlier that ties with the US, including military and intelligence contacts, had fully recovered from the setbacks of 2011.
During the meeting of the defence consultative group, the two sides discussed issues related to Coalition Support Fund reimbursement and security assistance programmes. It was agreed to continue the discussions on both issues for finding the way forward. The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and extremism operations in tribal areas also came up.
The joint statement noted that the group remained an invaluable forum to discuss strategic defence policy issues and exchange views on shared security concerns.
It noted the commitment of both sides to continue working together to implement a framework for defence cooperation based on areas of convergence between the US and Pakistani interests to promote peace and stability in the region.