WASHINGTON, March 26: The United States will wait for a request from Pakistan on its needs for nuclear technology and energy before deciding if it can accept the Pakistani demand, a US official said on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani urged the international community to give Pakistan access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses on a non-discriminatory basis.
“I don’t know whether we’ve had discussions in the past about these issues, but we would obviously await a request and then see what makes sense,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said when asked to comment on the prime minister’s statement.
“We obviously have a rich dialogue with Pakistan about its energy needs,” she told a daily news briefing at the State Department.
Prime Minister Gilani meets US President Barack Obama in Seoul on Tuesday for talks aimed at jump starting a crucial relationship which has deteriorated rapidly in the last 15 months.
A White House official told reporters that President Obama would seek to put strained relations with Pakistan on a more even footing when he meets the Pakistani leader.
In a related development, a senior US general admitted on Monday that last year Pakistan took effective actions against terrorist hideouts, causing a steady decrease in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.
But as the two governments try to rebuild a key partnership in the war against terrorism, three US lawmakers are attempting to derail their effort.
They are holding a briefing in Washington on Tuesday on a resolution they had moved in the US Congress last month for creating an independent state of Balochistan.
Republican Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Louie Gohmert and Steve King will speak at the National Press Club in Washington to highlight their demand.
It was Congressman Rohrabacher, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, who initiated this move at a meeting in Berlin last year and in February he introduced the resolution.
As expected, the resolution caused massive anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan that threatened to deteriorate relations even further.
His new move also coincides with another major attempt to restore US-Pakistan ties – the Obama-Gilani meeting in Seoul.
Obama administration officials told the US media earlier this week that they hoped the meeting would lead to “a significant warming of the chilled relations” between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Gen John Allen, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, told a Pentagon briefing that he believed the actions Pakistan had taken inside its border had led to a decrease in cross-border attacks on the Afghan side.“We believe that, as a result, … the reduction in enemy-initiated attacks over the year, if we see that a second year, we think that there will be important indicators about whether the safe havens have in fact or are operationally relevant to the insurgency,” he said.
The general said that many insurgents hiding in Fata actually lived in Afghanistan. “If we can accelerate the value of reintegration in their minds, that’s another means of neutralising the safe havens,” he added, while stressing the need for integrating the militants with the Afghan mainstream.
The process of reconciliation with the Taliban, he noted, could also deflate the value of the safe havens.
“Many insurgents will simply go home to become part of the future, rather than to become continued insurgents,” the general said. Asked if he would like to see the Pakistani military involved in a greater offensive against the militants, Gen Allen said: “We would always enjoy Pakistani military assistance across the border.”
He said he would not want to tell Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani how he should conduct his operations but “my hope is that as his relationship and mine continues to unfold, we could perhaps cooperate with complementary operations across the border”.
Gen Allen said he believed the current debate in the Pakistani parliament would ultimately lead to the reopening of Nato supply routes.
Responding to another question, he said the US Army decided not to charge anyone in the killing of 24 Pakistani troops in Salala because “the investigation was clear that there was no criminal dereliction of duty”.
He added: “But I did take administrative measures.”