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FM reaching Washington today for bridge-building talks

September 18, 2012

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. — File Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan renew their high-level contacts on Tuesday when Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar arrives here for talks both sides hope will be a “bridge-builder”.

“Her visit is set to begin a focused, constructive and sustained dialogue on issues of interest to both countries,” said Pakistan’s Ambassador Sherry Rehman while stressing the need for staying engaged with the world’s only superpower.

“This will be an opportunity to anchor the relationship in the goals we week: predictability, transparency and mutual respect. It will be an important bridge-builder at multiple levels.”

This will be the foreign minister’s first official visit to Washington for bilateral talks.

She will spend four days – Sept. 18 to 20 – in the US capital and will later go to New York to join the Pakistani delegation to the annual UN General Assembly. President Asif Ali Zardari will lead the Pakistani delegation to the general assembly.

In Washington, the foreign minister is scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, US Trade Representative Ron Krik and other senior officials.

Her engagements on Capitol Hill are equally significant where she will also have an exclusive session with Senator John Kerry.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Kerry already plays a major role in shaping America’s foreign policy but he is expected to have a bigger role in President Barack Obama’s second term.

US media reports claim that he may replace Mrs Clinton as Secretary of State in the next set-up because Mrs Clinton does not want to continue.

Two other congressional leaders who have a major influence on US policies towards Pakistan – chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees – are also meeting the foreign minister.

She also will have meetings with former speaker, now the House Minority leader, Nancy Pelosi and with Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

At the embassy, the foreign minister will address a joint meeting of representatives from 18 major US think-tanks. She will also speak at the Council on Foreign Relations, School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, and at the Asia Society in New York.The engagements show Pakistan’s desire to broaden its engagements beyond the administration and reach out to US lawmakers and foreign policy experts as well.