WASHINGTON: The United States made a reconciliatory gesture on Thursday to improve its strained relations with Pakistan: reaching out to Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to assure Islamabad that recent developments would not affect its economic support to the country.
Also, as part of its efforts to improve military-to-military ties, Washington has decided to send its military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, to Islamabad for talks with Pakistani generals.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, was called to the State Department where he met Coordinator for Counter-terrorism Daniel Benjamin who assured him that the United States would not hasten to blame Pakistan for Wednesday’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed several people.
Indian police suspect a group called the Indian Mujahideen to be behind the attacks but some sections in India are pointing fingers at Pakistan.
“The Indian government is conducting an investigation. We'll wait and see how that develops,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner when asked if the US had seen evidence of Pakistan’s involvement.
In Washington, however, all eyes were focused on a series of meetings that the ISI chief, Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha, held with senior intelligence and security officials.
Gen Pasha, who arrived in Washington on Wednesday afternoon on a one-day visit, met acting CIA Director Michael Morell and senior officials of the National Security staff at the White House.
Diplomatic sources told Dawn that the talks aimed at building a template for intelligence-sharing between the two countries.
“The purpose is to do away with the bitterness created by the May 2 US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad and move ahead,” said a diplomatic source. “The two sides are trying to build a substantive and reasonable framework for intelligence-sharing.”
At the State Department, spokesman Toner told reporters that Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides telephoned the Pakistani finance minister earlier on Thursday and discussed with him the importance of continuing cooperation on the US-Pakistan civilian assistance programme.
“Deputy Secretary Nides reiterated to Minister Shaikh that the United States remains committed to working in partnership with Pakistan to fuel economic growth and to improve its energy, education and health sectors,” the spokesman said.
Mr Toner noted that since the passage of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman, the US had dispersed about $2 billion in civilian assistance, which included over $550 million in emergency humanitarian assistance during the floods.
“We do have a slowdown on the security side, but our civilian assistance remains undeterred,” he said.
“The crux of the conversation was about the continuing flow of civilian assistance and how best to ensure that that meets Pakistan's needs.”
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