Islamabad, November 16, 2012 (PPI-OT): United States Ambassador Richard Olson says that United States is looking forward to building a relationship with Pakistan based on historical partnership‚ common interests and mutual respect.
This he said in an exclusive interview with Radio Pakistan conducted by Murtaza Solangi. The interview was broadcast Friday evening.
The Ambassador said there have been challenges in the bilateral ties but the relationship are now on the stable footing following intensive engagements between the two countries. He said Secretary of State Hilary Clinton offered apology for loss of life at Salala and the United States welcomes decision of Pakistan to reopen supply lines.
He referred to the visits of President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to the United States and said there would be visits from Washington as well for talks on issues including Pakistan’s energy requirements.
He said it is important for the United States to have good relations with Pakistan. It recognizes the importance of defining relationship with Pakistan not just in terms of Afghanistan but beyond 2015 through the century. He said Pakistan would become fourth largest country in the world and that is one of the reasons to have continued engagements with the country.
Replying to a question‚ Mr. Richard Olson said the United States applauds democratic tendencies in Pakistan and hoped that free and fair general elections would lead to peaceful transfer of authority from one civilian government to successor civilian government.
He said completion of the term by a democratically elected government is a milestone in Pakistan’s history. About his recent meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari‚ he said they exchanged views on a number of issues of mutual and regional interest.
Responding to questions about bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the United States‚ the Ambassador said his country is prepared to make its contribution for construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam‚ which is a high priority with Pakistan.
He pointed out that this is a costly project for which a consortium of countries and multilateral institutions will have to be formed to arrange its funding.
He said the United States is actively supporting Pakistan to overcome its energy shortfall. “The US has helped Pakistan upgrade hydro-electricity projects to add 400 MW to the national grid and the target is to add 900 more MW by the next year‚” added Olson.
The ambassador said the US appreciates Pakistan’s emphasis on trade-not-aid. He said expansion of trade would remain high on his priority as US envoy to Pakistan.
He said the United States wants to conclude the Bilateral Investment Treaty as soon as possible as it would support investment in both countries.
To another question‚ he said the United States is working on a number of programmes to help expedite socio-economic development in FATA. He said their focus is on health‚ education and water.
The US Ambassador acknowledged the sacrifices offered by Pakistan in war on terror and said forty thousand Pakistanis have lost their lives in the conflict.
The Ambassador welcomed visit of the Afghan High Peace Council delegation to Pakistan hoping that it would lead to concrete steps towards reconciliation in Afghanistan. He said Washington appreciates the invitation by Pakistan to the delegation and the visit of Salauddin Rabbani was a very welcome development.
Replying to a question Richard Olson said the United States and Afghanistan are beginning their negotiations on Bilateral Security Agreement this week in Kabul. He clarified that the proposed agreement is not about permanent bases as the US is not seeking any such facility. Instead‚ it would provide a framework and terms for security presence after 2014.
The US Ambassador said the deadline of 2014 is for ending military aspect of the engagement in Afghanistan responsibly as the US did in Iraq. He said it would not be a disengagement from Afghanistan or the region.
The United States has already concluded a Strategic Agreement with Afghanistan defining the nature of relationship between the two countries in the post-withdrawal decade. Richard Olson emphatically stated that the United States would not repeat the mistake of 1990 when it disengaged from Afghanistan and the region.
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