Clinton: U.S. ready to reset relations with Pakistan

LONDON — The Obama administration is “ready to get back to business” with Pakistan after a three-month freeze in relations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told her Pakistani counterpart here Thursday.

Clinton’s luncheon with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was among the few high-level contacts between the two countries since 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a cross-border U.S. air raid from Afghanistan in November. Both officials were in London for an international conference on Somalia.

Graphic

Timeline: The two countries are allies but their relationship has been plagued by mistrust over the last 50 years.
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Timeline: The two countries are allies but their relationship has been plagued by mistrust over the last 50 years.

The frozen relationship has slowly begun to thaw. Early this month, CIA Director David H. Petraeus and Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, held a secret meeting that focused on counterterrorism cooperation and ongoing U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan.

Pakistan has said that it wants to reset its relations with the United States but will not be ready to do so formally until a special parliamentary committee delivers the results of a review of the matter.

“We respect Parliament’s right to . . . take time to do this in a sensible way, but we had to get ready to get back into business with Pakistan” on bilateral counterterrorism issues, including Afghanistan, Clinton told Khar, according to a senior State Department official.

The official said Clinton also told Khar that the administration wants to resume high-level visits to Pakistan by aid officials and Marc Grossman, the top diplomatic envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Congress has indicated that it may not approve significant aid for Pakistan this year amid concerns about the country’s provision of havens to the Taliban and other insurgent groups, as well as about its support for Afghanistan peace talks.

In a toughly worded speech Wednesday at Chatham House, a London think tank, Khar said, “Contrary to clever wordplay and cheap headlines, Pakistan’s position could not be more clear.”

“We will support any . . . and I mean any, and all initiatives that are all-inclusive, that are Afghan-led, that are Afghan-owned and are Afghan-driven. This is our first and last prerequisite,” she said.

Although Pakistan has complained about being kept out of the loop in ongoing U.S. talks with the Taliban, Khar said her country would do “absolutely nothing to block any other initiative that any country or any group of countries offers to Afghanistan or for Afghanistan, anywhere in the world.”

But Pakistan, she said, “will not lead. . . . We will only follow what our Afghan brothers and sisters decide to be the course of action they adopt.”

 
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