WikiLeaks has released the details of Feb 16, 2010 meeting between PM Gilani and Senator John Kerry.—AP photo

WASHINGTON: In a meeting with a key US lawmaker earlier this year, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani insisted that in order to gain Pakistans trust India would needed to decrease its footprint in Afghanistan and stop interfering in Balochistan. Details of the Feb 16 meeting between the prime minister and chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator John Kerry, were leaked recently by the whistle-blowers’ website, WikiLeaks.

The cable, sent by the then US ambassador Anne W. Patterson to the State Department in Washington, noted that the meeting focussed on the state of India-Pakistani relations.

The prime minister told the American lawmaker that Pakistan was sincere in its efforts to improve relations with India and pointed to recent meetings between the foreign secretaries as evidence of its sincerity.

He noted that Pakistan and India had also resumed backchannel discussions. Mr Gilani said that improving bilateral relations with India was in Pakistans best interest as it would enable Pakistan to focus all of its attention on securing its western border.

Mr Gilani, however, noted that in order to gain public support for this process, the US had to “treat India and Pakistan equally”.

He added that “India will need to gain Pakistan’s trust and indicated that reducing the Indian footprint in Afghanistan and halting Indian support of militants in Balochistan would be steps in the right direction”.

Senator Kerry noted that talks between the foreign secretaries had “enormous potential” and urged Pakistan not to allow pressure from the local media and the masses to “derail these efforts”.

Senator Kerry argued that dialogue with India was an opportunity to “create new security arrangements that could change the regional dynamic”.

While assuring Mr Gilani that the effort would not be US-driven, Senator Kerry indicated that the US government was open to the idea of serving as a mediator to help facilitate the resumption of the Pakistan-India Composite Dialogue.

Noting that Indias politicians were currently focussed on counterterrorism, Senator Kerry suggested that Pakistan present India government with its plan to tackle terrorism.

He said that this would be a clear “confidence builder” that would make India more willing to move forward in talks about Kashmir and water disputes.

Prime Minister Gilani agreed to present Senator Kerry’s proposal to other Pakistani leaders. He was amenable to the idea of a rapprochement with India, but expressed concern that the public would not support the idea.

Senator Kerry said that in order to gain public support for this initiative, the government of Pakistan needed to clearly outline the long-term economic benefits of improved bilateral relations, such as an improvement in social development and increased investments and trade, to the Pakistani people.

The prime minister said Pakistan was committed to fighting extremism and pointed to the recent success of the military operations in Swat, Malakand and Waziristan as evidence of such.

Senator Kerry said the US government had a great respect and deep understanding of the difficulties involved in waging this war.

He praised Pakistan for the military’s efforts, acknowledged the difference that it was making, and thanked Mr Gilani for the sacrifices that Pakistani troops were making every day.

The prime minister complained that the large number of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan were destabilising the western provinces and contributing to extremism.

Mr Gilani suggested that the construction of new refugee camps in Afghanistan would dramatically improve Pakistan’s security situation by halting the more than 45,000 Afghans who move across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border each day.

Mr Gilani also explained that capacity building for law enforcement agencies, the military and the police was an essential part of continuing the fight against extremism.

He said the government of Pakistan had recently provided $8 million to support capacity building initiatives for the Frontier Corps and law enforcement in NWFP.

Mr Gilani expressed frustration at Pakistans inability to provide more money to support this activity due to budgetary constraints.

He attributed these constraints to the delayed disbursement of Coalition Support Funds, and the fact that recent pledges from the Friends of Democratic Pakistan member countries had yet to materialize.

Mr Gilani urged the US government to disburse CSF funds as soon as possible.

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