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Qureshi 'satisfied' with US on nuke deal talks

By Lalit K Jha
Last updated on: March 26, 2010 12:34 IST
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Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi seems to be in a denial over failure in getting a commitment from the US the civilian nuclear deal.

Although US made no mention of a nuclear deal with Pakistan, Qureshi has told the media that he had "very satisfactory" talks with Washington on the civilian nuclear cooperation, reported the Dawn News.

"I am quite satisfied with the discussions we had," Qureshi told Reuters when asked about the nuclear deal issue.

"I would not like to expand on it at this stage," he added.

Far from mentioning the deal, US has instead asked Pakistan to first address the non-proliferation concerns of the internal community, by especially taking against Pakistani nuclear scientist A Q Khan.

However, Qureshi thinks the Khan chapter is no more relevant. "I think that is behind us".

"I think they understand the new command-control structures we have in place. I think they are pretty satisfied with security and safety systems in place in Pakistan and there is recognition of that," he told Reuters.

Pakistan repeatedly appealed and gave persuasive reasons for its need to sign the deal much before Qureshi left for the US. It has always specifically mentioned that the civilian nuclear deal must be similar to the one US has signed with its archrival India.

When questioned by Reuters if Pakistan wanted a deal similar to India, Qureshi said: "I am against discrimination."

The US and Pakistan pledged to redouble efforts to confront terrorism and Washington committed to help Islamabad overcome its crippling energy deficit but there was no mention of a civil nuclear deal as the two nations ended their upgraded strategic dialogue. There was also no reference to US' mediation role in Kashmir as was being pushed by the Pakistani officials.

The first-ever Cabinet-level US-Pak Strategic Dialogue that concluded in Washington on Thursday also saw the two countries reaffirming the importance of advancing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. Notwithstanding the suspicion in a major section of the American administration over the Inter-Services Intelligence's(Pak apy agency) continued ties with Taliban and Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the US pledged to work with Pakistan against terrorism in the region.

"Both sides acknowledged the common threat that terrorism and extremism posed to global, regional and local security," said a joint statement issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the conclusion of the talks. Pakistan appreciated the US security assistance and both governments "committed to redouble their efforts to deal effectively with terrorism and to protect the common ideals and shared values of democracy, tolerance, openness and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights". However, there was no reference to US's mediation role in Kashmir or the civilian nuclear deal, two key items onPakistan's wish-list.

The Pakistani delegation among others also included the Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Among major assistance committments offered by the Obama Administration to Pakistan included grants for establishing cold storage facilities and roads. "The US recognised the importance of assisting Pakistan to overcome its energy deficit and committed to further intensify and expand comprehensive cooperation in the energy sector, including through the Signature Energy Programme," the joint statement said.

Islamabad received a grant of nearly US $ 400,000 from the US to establish of a network of cold storage facilities at strategic locations in five key urban areas in Pakistan. The two countries also signed a US $ 40 million letter of intent regarding cooperation in construction of priority roads in Pakistan's NWFP to aid in Malakand's reconstruction. "Recognising the crucial importance of water for human survival and development, both sides decided to add a separate sectoral track in the Strategic Dialogue to focus on water conservation, watershed management and US assistance in water projects," the statement said.

The US and Pakistan discussed to create an investment fund to support increased foreign direct investment anddevelopment in Pakistan. Such a fund could provide much-needed additional support for Pakistan's energy sector and other high priority areas, the joint statement said. Further, it said the US was committed to work towards enhanced market access for Pakistani products as well as towards the early finalisation of reconstruction opportunity zones legislation, which would benefit Afghanistan too.

"The two governments decided to discuss issues related to the Bilateral Investment Treaty in order to stimulate investment in Pakistan," it said. Clinton and Qureshi agreed to hold the next round of Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad in the next six months. It said a Policy Steering Group was established to intensify and expand the sectoral dialogue process in the fields of: economy and trade, energy, defence, security, strategic stability and non-proliferation; law enforcement and counter-terrorism; science and technology; education, agriculture, water, health and communications and publicdiplomacy. Sectoral meetings will be held in Islamabad soon.

Both sides exchanged views on the status of bilateral cooperation and decided to continually provide strategic guidance for strengthening the partnership in the 21st century for realising the aspirations of their people. The two leaders pointed out that the core foundations of this partnership are shared democratic values, mutual trustand mutual respect. A stable, enduring and broad-based cooperative partnership is in the fundamental interest of both thecountries, it added. Both the US and Pakistan are determined to foster goodwill and friendship between their people and engage in mutually beneficial cooperation, the joint statement said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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