Ambassador Sherry Rehman speaking at the Atlantic Council on February 26, 2013.
WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman on Tuesday underscored the need for fostering mutual trust in the relationship and moving forward with clear goals for peace, security and development at a time of important transitions in the region up to 2014.
In a wide-ranging speech to the Atlantic Council, Ambassador Rehman also advocated Pakistan’s case for greater trade access to the United States as one of the pivots that could underpin the relationship over the long-term.
At the same time, she said, Islamabad and Washington have been able to restore their bilateral relationship after a stressful 2011 year and now multiple working groups on vital strategic issues of common concern are back working together.
However, the Pakistani envoy noted that the immediate impact of 2014 NATO drawdown from Afghanistan is on everyone’s mind in Islamabad. She underlined the importance of upcoming developments in the region by saying “there can be no drawdown for Pakistan” as it has to live in the region.
Islamabad, she said, is pursuing a policy of its own regional pivot, which does not see Afghanistan as its strategic backyard and aims at transforming Pakistan into a hub of trade and economic cooperation for Central and South Asia.
“It is very important to use the opportunity to bridge the gaps we may be facing in terms of understanding what we are looking for, where we are headed and what gains we can make as strategic allies together,” she said of Pakistan-US ties at the widely attended event, moderated by South Asia Director of the Council Shuja Nawaz.
Ambassador Rehman, who spoke in the backdrop of 2011 troubled bilateral relationship, particularly noted the need for bridging what she called the “cognitive disconnect.”
Since 1980s she felt the two countries have not drifted strategically apart so much as the fact that they have not been speaking to each other consistently about expectations and limits to each other’s capacity.
“We need to understand each other better because we need to work together.”
Referring to imminent transitions in Afghanistan, she said, “there is a bandwidth of possibility and policy options between the two countries that we can leverage to achieve a great deal in the region as it transitions.”
“That transition is of great importance to us we have a clear strategic goal of securing and winning the peace together. This is very important. Pakistan has the most to lose from an unstable Afghanistan, and will support all Afghan-led roadmaps to a negotiated peace settlement. What we will not do is play favourites or treat Afghanistan. Pakistan has learnt important lessons from the past. We hope our other partners also use strategic lessons from history to navigate important policy frameworks for the way forward.”
The two countries need to address the neuralgia of distrust that has built since US abandonment of the region in the aftermath of 1989 Soviet pullout from Afghanistan. In this respect, she cited the importance of maintaining predictability, trust and confidence in the relationship.
Ambassador Rehman also spoke of Pakistan’s massive sacrifices and sufferings in the fight against terror as well as the colossal economic losses in investment and business activity due to prolonged conflict on its western border and said the narrative in Washington must take into account these repercussions.
Regarding the contentious issue of drone operations that the US launches to target suspected militant targets in tribal areas, the ambassador said using the unmanned aerial vehicles inside Pakistani territory is not a good idea. app
Daily Times: Thursday, February 28, 2013