India to figure in US-Pakistan strategic dialogue Monday

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Islamabad, Jan 25 (IANS) Sub-continental relations and Afghanistan will figure during Monday’s US-Pakistan ministerial-level strategic dialogue in Washington, being held after nearly four years.

“I don’t think Afghanistan’s going to go away. It’s kind of permanently there on Pakistan’s northwest frontier. So, I think it will maintain an element. But as I said, we’re very interested in Pakistan’s relationship with India and seeing improvements in that. We would encourage both sides in that regard,” a State Department official said at a background briefing in Washington, Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz will lead their respective sides at the dialogue at the State Department.

Discussions would be held on areas like energy, defence, strategic stability, economic and finance and law enforcement and counterterrorism.

The last strategic dialogue at the ministerial level was held in 2010, after which the process was stalled due to setbacks in relations.

Diplomats will work to “put together a blueprint of where we can take this relationship over the course of the next six months to a year”, the official said, adding that US-Pakistan cooperation is not just confined to Afghan war but spans many areas.

Thus, a key element of the dialogue will be security, including issues like reconciliation in Afghanistan and Pakistan internal security challenges.

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan face a challenge from cross-border militancy from groups on both sides of the border that transit back and forth and that attack both societies and try to undermine both governments, the official said.

According to the official, economic cooperation will, in many ways, be the centrepiece of discussions.

On energy cooperation between the two sides, the official said the US has helped put another 1,000 MW of power into Pakistan’s national grid.

“We are not looking for specific deliverables at this dialogue, we are just looking to continue to strengthen and deepen the ongoing discussions and work towards kind of concrete dates in the future and particular areas of cooperation that we can make as pragmatic as possible,” said the official.

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