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US study urges market access for Pakistani textile products

November 14, 2010

"American assistance should also encourage private sector investment in conflict-prone and flood-ravaged regions.” — File Photo

WASHINGTON: A leading US think tank study has recommended Washington to ease trade restrictions on Pakistani textile exports and increase the military's capacity to defeat militants on the battlefield as part of efforts to strengthen a cooperative partnership to defeat extremists operating in the region.

“The US commitment to a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan is a critical step in securing Pakistani action against the militant groups within its borders,” a report by an independent task force for the Council on Foreign Relations says.

“The Obama administration's strategy in Pakistan has resulted in stronger relationships with civilian and military authorities more substantial and targeted aid,” it notes.

Meanwhile, al-qaeda militants are being increasingly targeted in the tribal border regions.

“To reinforce US-Pakistan ties and contribute to Pakistan's economic stability in the aftermath of an overwhelming natural disaster, the Obama administration should prioritize and the Congress should enact agreement that would grant preferential market access to Pakistani textiles,” former deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger, stress in the report.

This agreement would help revive the Pakistani industry and all of the associated sectors of the economy, including Pakistan-grown cotton, the report adds.

“To further enhance Pakistan's stability, the United States should maintain current levels of economic and technical assistance to help military and civilian leaders reconstruct and establish control over areas hard-hit by the flood, including those contested by militant forces. American assistance should also encourage private sector investment in conflict-prone and flood-ravaged regions.”

As part of efforts to build Pakistani support for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, the United States “must move rapidly to implement high-profile assistance projects and should also reach out on a sustained basis to nontraditional allies in Pakistani society, including business interests, educators, local media, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).”

The authors of the report particularly highlight that a continuing robust response to this summer's epic floods is necessary to prevent Pakistan from sliding into economic and political troubles.

Washington's first order of business in Pakistan must be to help address the extreme humanitarian suffering and dislocation caused by this summer's floods. The best way for the United States to address the challenges of terrorism and security is by working shoulder to shoulder with a stable partner in Islamabad.

The report says as it cultivates a closer partnership with Islamabad and contributes to shoring up the Pakistani state and national economy, the United States should seek action against Afghan, Pakistani and other related militant groups.

“By demonstrating American generosity and assistance at a time of grave Pakistani peril, the United States will also make a better case for the strategic benefits of its partnership.”

One of the greatest challenges to improving relations between the people of Pakistan and the United States is the perception that America does not welcome Pakistani visitors, the chairs of the task force note.

“This perception has been reinforced by heavy-handed US border security policies and clumsy implementation,” the authors point out.

Other miscommunications and security precautions have even disrupted official Pakistani travel within the United States. “Although the US government must do what is necessary to secure the borders, future decisions regarding travel restrictions and airport security should do far more to take Pakistani sensitivities, as well as the diplomatic implications of new regulations, into consideration. As a practical matter, an interagency liaison team should be established to manage and avert diplomatic incidents related to security procedures at US airports.”

Focusing on the regional dimensions of the ongoing tensions, the report proposes “to reduce regional tensions that distract from counter terror operations and undermine Pakistan's stability, the United States should encourage progress in the Indo-Pakistani relationship.”

“Washington should not attempt to impose itself in Indo-Pakistani negotiations.

An indirect approach is better. The United States should help to build new constituencies for peace by helping to fund international development schemes that benefit businesses and people on both sides of the Indo- Pakistani border.”

The United States, the report suggests, should seek creative new ways to encourage Indo-Pakistani trade and investment, including US technical assistance for infrastructure development along the international border and the Kashmir divide.