WASHINGTON: US and Pakistani officials are still deliberating on the contents of a joint statement that was supposed to be issued after the sixth meeting of their strategic dialogue on Monday afternoon.
Neither side is willing to talk about the differences that have reportedly delayed the statement, but in their opening remarks on Monday, leaders of the US and Pakistani delegations highlighted some pressing issues.
US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasised the need for Pakistan to reduce its nuclear arsenal, urging it to “process that reality (of reduction) and put that front and centre in its policy.”
On the other hand, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, asked the United States to show a “greater understanding of Pakistan’s security concerns and its desire to contribute actively as a mainstream nuclear power.”
The two statements clearly underline major differences between their positions on the nuclear issue. Pakistan insists that its nuclear programme is designed only to deal with a possible threat from India and that it will not accept any unilateral reduction in nuclear weapons.
Secretary Kerry, however, did not mention India while calling for a drastic reduction in nuclear weapons.
Mr Aziz not only urged the United States to understand Pakistan’s threat perceptions but also conveyed its desire to be treated as a mainstream nuclear power, which is so far unacceptable to Washington.
Mr Kerry, while praising Pakistan’s commitment to act against all terror groups, also named groups such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-i-Tayyaba that the US would like Pakistan to target.
Mr Aziz regretted the “tendency to blame Pakistan in a simplistic fashion” for everything that goes wrong in Afghanistan. He also rejected the claim that Pakistan was “pursuing a duplicitous policy.”
So far, it was not clear which of these issues was delaying the joint statement but the delay was obvious as on previous occasions, it was issued right after the meeting.
Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2016