WASHINGTON: Terro­rism is a threat to both Pakistan and India and their cooperation in fighting the menace is helpful to the region, a State Department spokesman said on Friday.

In reply to a question at a regular briefing about cooperation between the two countries, especially in dealing with terrorist incidents, spokesman Mark Toner said that the United States had been very vocal in the past in encouraging cooperation between India and Pakistan.

“Clearly, terrorism is a threat to both countries, and if they can cooperate on these kinds of issues, we see it as helpful to the region,” the spokesman said.

He described the Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue, which will take place on Monday, as “very important” and said the US administration looked forward to it. The dialogue is about strengthening security and stability in the region.

It would also examine steps to boost trade and look at the many different problems and threats in the region, he added when asked about the agenda.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartajz Aziz was due to arrive in Washington this weekend to represent Pakistan at the sixth round of Ministerial level Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue to be held in Washington. US Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the US side.

This will be the third annual meeting since the government assumed office in 2013. The six segments of the Strategic Dialogue include cooperation in Economy and Finance; Energy; Education, Science and Technology; Law Enforcement and Counter Terrorism; Security, Strategic Stability and Non-Proliferation and Defence.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the US in October 2015 had provided necessary impetus and direction to the dialogue mechanism. The upcoming meeting will afford an important opportunity to take stock of the entire gamut of Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the United States.

Anwar Iqbal adds: Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is part of the delegation which will represent Pakistan in the Strategic dialogue, Has criticised US media for painting Pakistan as a “problem” rather than as “a country, a nation”.

The minister was speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The US media, as well as some lawmakers, continue to define the US-Pakistan relationship as one-dimensional, focusing on the need to combat terrorism.

Daniel F. Runde, director for a CSIS project on prosperity and development, endorsed the minister’s complaint, reminding the audience that Pakistan was a nation of more than 200 million people and it was wrong to dismiss it as a “mere problem”.

Ahsan Iqbal said the strategic dialogue provided an opportunity to “operationalise key future-making initiatives” between Pakistan and the United States.

The minister recalled the long history of partnership with US, which began with the Independence of Pakistan in 1947, but noted that sometimes the two countries felt that “they were stuck” in this relationship.

He regretted that because of the geo-strategic scenario of the recent past, the two countries structured their relationship through the prism of geo-strategic and security.

“There was so much more in Pakistan, so much more in this partnership which could have translated this relationship into a broad-based relationship,” he said.

The minister outlined a broader vision of the Pakistan’s future economic growth and urged U.S. policy makers and investors to help Pakistan achieve its goals.

He said that by 2013, when this government came into power, “Pakistan was unfortunately already painted very negatively in the media and there was a lot of pessimism.”

The present government, he said, had worked hard to improve this image and also to improve the national economy.

He claimed that the government had cut down energy shortages and the country was on its way to overcome the energy crisis by 2018.

He also credited “a very successful military operation” in Fata and other parts of the country for making Pakistan safe again.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2016


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