ISLAMABAD: US Natio­nal Security Adviser (NSA) Susan Rice arrived here on Saturday for discussions on a range of issues before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October.

She will meet the prime minister, Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Sunday in preparation for the PM’s visit, a foreign ministry official said.

During the meetings, Ms Rice will finalise the agenda for the PM’s White House visit, which is likely to include counter-terrorism cooperation, Afghanistan and nuclear security.

Issues of interest to Pakistan are trade, economic assistance and deteriorating relations with India.

On the regional plane, tensions in Pakistan-Afghan ties after months of improvement, suspension of Afghan reconciliation process and the aggravating impasse in Pakistan-India relations, inc­luding the situation along the Line of Control and Working Boundary, are some of the issues of concern for the US.

According to an American source, Ms Rice is expected to convey US concerns about the recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan that had thrown Pakistan-Afghanis­tan ties into disarray.

Ms Rice has come to Islamabad from Beijing, where she tried to fine-tune the agenda for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington next month. Peace and stability in Afghanistan is likely to be one of the issues common to both President Xi’s and Nawaz Sharif’s agendas for their White House visits.

Mr Sharif’s upcoming trip is being described by the American side, in their private conversations, as a working visit. Pakistani officials are, however, trying to turn it into an official visit.

It will be Mr Sharif’s second visit to the White House during his current tenure. His last visit took place in Oct 2013, which helped reset the ties weighed down by events of the preceding years.

About Ms Rice’s visit, a Pakistani diplomat said the relations were “on a much better footing now” and that Ms Rice’s visit to Islamabad and Mr Sharif’s subsequent Washington trip would further strengthen the ties and pave the way for a “long-term and sustained relations”.

The prime minister had sent his special assistant Tariq Fatemi to the US last month to prepare for his October trip.

During his stay in Washington, Mr Fatemi had met senior officials of the Obama administration and Congressional leaders, besides speaking at think tanks.

A statement issued after Mr Fatemi’s meeting with the US national security adviser had said: “While recognising the significance of continued high-level engagements between the two countries, both sides agreed to work closely to sustain and further build the momentum in high-level exchanges to further solidify mutual trust and confidence.”

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2015

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