WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar arrived here Monday evening for a four-day visit and a series of strategic dialogues with top US officials after a long gap.
Previous high level discussions ceased following the unfortunate Salala incident last year. Ms Khar’s numerous meetings will cover bilateral issues. Experts believe that a decision on any of the tabled points is hardly forthcoming, but at least these meetings will mark the continuation of official dialogues in different fields of mutual interest.
Last week Special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mark Grossman kicked off the series when he met with President Asif Zardari and other high officials where both sides agreed to act jointly to combat terrorism and promote regional peace. This, too, happened after the reopening of the Nato supply routes.
Khar’s four day schedule here indicates that she’ll be meeting with her American counterpart Hillary Clinton for formal talks. She’ll also visit Capitol Hill to engage with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its chairperson Senator John Kerry, as well as members of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and its chair Diane Feinstein.
Both the US leaders are highly regarded for their expertise in their respective fields. The rainbow of debatable issues that covers the still-grey sky of bilateral relations range from Pakistan specific to region specific.
The Americans are keen to host the Pakistani foreign minister as most of them want to inquire about the efforts to squeeze the Haqqani network, the fate of Dr Shakil Afridi, the state of human rights and counter-terrorism efforts.The Pakistani delegation has its own list that includes economic and trade cooperation, regional peace and concerns about the future of Afghanistan.
“It’s part of an ongoing process now,” commented one Pakistani official. This process will particularly continue until the upcoming elections in both countries are over. Congressional leaders here have already announced that they intend to tackle unfinished business after the presidential elections in November.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is also in a fix, grappling with ongoing upheaval in Muslim countries over the film controversy. Ultimately, however, the draw down from Afghanistan in 2014 remains a priority for the US, throwing into stark relief Pakistan’s significant role. During her visit, the foreign minister also plans to meet with White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
She will hold a session at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a think tank that specializes in US foreign and global affairs, and give a talk at the John Hopkins School of Advance International Studies.Later, she’ll join President Zardari in New York to attend the United Nation’s General Assembly.