WASHINGTON: Pakistan wants its relationship with the United States to be based on realistic expectations, mutual respect for sovereignty and appreciation of each other's legitimate security interests, Islamabad's envoy in Washington said.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman said Pakistan wants the important relationship to be mutually cooperative.
She was addressing a reception held in honour of a visiting delegation of National Defense University of Pakistan. The event at the Pakistani embassy was attended by senior State Department and Pentagon officials.
“We want this relationship to be grounded in realistic expectations, respect for each other's sovereignty, appreciation of each other's legitimate security interests and understanding of each other's redlines. Similarly, both sides need to be aware of each other's limitations and constraints,” the ambassador said of the ties, strained by a series of incidents last year.
Her remarks came as Islamabad and Washington looked at ways to reset relations in the light of Pakistani parliamentary recommendations, a result of the November 26, 2011 Nato strikes on Salala checkposts, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged the bilateral relationship to the lowest point in the last decade.
Pakistan and the United States are engaged in the challenging choreography of reconfiguring the bilateral relationship to make it “more transparent and sustainable,” the ambassador noted.
Pakistan's Parliament has made history by taking charge of spelling out Pakistan's “concerns, priorities and redlines,” she said.
“We hope to use this framework as the foundation for a healthier, more sustainable and mutually cooperative relationship with the United States.”
Islamabad, she said, considers the Pakistan-US relationship as one of the most important in the world and desires to strengthen it.
“For any relationship to be sustainable, both countries must treat each other as partners and respect their core interests.”
In her remarks, Rehman referred to a string of 18-hour long attack in Kabul over the weekend, in which 12 Afghans lost their lives.
“I take this opportunity to reiterate our condemnation of these attacks and express our sympathy and solidarity with the people and government of Afghanistan on the loss of life,” she said, citing strong denunciation of the attacks by President Asif Ali Zardari.
The ambassador told the gathering that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has also spoken with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool to convey the same message.
At the same time, the envoy noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's considered comments that the attacks point out the need for better intelligence by both Nato and Afghan forces have been seen as important in Pakistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's has reiterated the need for “robust action” while underscoring the shared responsibility by the US and Isaf, by Afghanistan, and by Pakistan to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists,” she said.
“There is no doubt that we are all doing that,” the ambassador remarked In this respect, she said while more than 1900 US soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan and thousands of Afghans have paid a similarly high price, Pakistan has paid the highest price fighting these same terrorists and extremists.
Today, Pakistan is a changed country and has lost 37,000 Pakistani citizens to terrorists.
“There was one suicide bombing in Pakistan before 2001. There have been more than 300 since then,” Ambassador said, underscoring the sacrifices her nation has made in the fight against terror.
Pakistan's armed forces, police, and other law enforcement agencies have lost more than 5,000 officials. The roster of Pakistani military dead includes every rank from three star general down to the ordinary private. One in every ten military casualties is an officer. Terrorists have targeted our offices, hospitals, schools and colleges, bazaars, mosques, weddings and funerals.
Economically, she said, Pakistan lost $ 78 billion the war on terror.
“And let us not remember that we have lost one of the greatest leaders in Pakistani history, Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist assassination.
“Clearly, the people of Pakistan do not need to be lectured about the dangers of terrorism,” she added, while renewing the country's determination to defeat terrorism.
On Afghanistan, she said, Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process and is prepared to assist its neighbor in that effort in whatever way its Afghan brothers and sisters want.
“This is not a weightless statement, as we have made an important shift in our Afghan policy of the 1990s. While we have vital stakes in Afghan stability, we are very clear that Pakistan has no interest in playing favourites in Afghanistan, nor can we treat it as our strategic backyard.”
“There can be no military solutions to any conflict in the region, and Afghanistan is no exception,” she added.