Tour successful ; Obama to visit Pak ; Meeting with Singh cordial

Zahid Malik

Thursday, April 15, 2010 – Washington—Pakistan’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit and international confidence in the safety of Pakistani custodial controls has given a boost to the legitimacy of the country’s nuclear programme, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani asserted.

The Prime Minister, who also had a meeting with the US President Barack Obama, described his visit to Washington as successful.

“Pakistan’s participation in the Summit itself brings legitimacy to our nuclear programme,” Gilani told Pakistani journalists at the conclusion of the conference.

He said the negative impressions aired by critics of Pakistan’s programme were effectively quashed when President Obama voiced his administration’s firm confidence in the safety of our nuclear safeguards.

“Our nuclear programme is in safe hands and President Obama is totally convinced that our command and control system is undoubtedly effective,” asserted the Prime Minister, flanked by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Ambassador Husain Haqqani.

Gilani, who spelled out Pakistan’s position on nuclear security issues in two interventions, noted that of some 47 nations represented at the summit “not even a single head of state or government raised concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme which is a great victory for Pakistan.”

“When President Obama himself has answered the question and stating our programme is in safe hands, we could not have expected more,” the premier stated.

“I think by and large the visit was very successful,” Gilani said. Islamabad, he said, effectively communicated its point of view at the summit, where Pakistan urged a non-discriminatory approach to civil nuclear cooperation and sought civil nuclear technology deal from the United States.

On Pakistan, US relations, the Prime Minister said there has been improvement and that both countries would build on the strategic dialogue held last month and follow it with cooperation in various fields.

President Obama will visit Pakistan at mutually convenient dates. “I see a definite change in Pakistan-US relations,” which is moving beyond security cooperation in the fight against terrorism and will now cover many areas of cooperation.

Responding to a question about his informal meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Pakistani leader said he met him in a “cordial atmosphere.”

Continuing, he said, the international community and the United States are cognizant that Pakistan has an “extremely important” role in meeting current challenge of violent extremism. “Our friends realize that Pakistan is working in the interest of peace and security in the world and want to see improvement in Pak, India relations so that the focus is maintained on the fight against terrorism on the western border (with Afghanistan).” The focus in the region should also be on fighting poverty, hunger and disease, he added.

Earlier, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani expressing his satisfaction over the last round of Pakistan-US strategic dialogue hoped that the follow-up action on the progress made through sectoral meetings would take place in the near future.

The Prime Minister termed the increasing defence and intelligence cooperation between the two countries as a sign of bridging the trust deficit and underscored the need for promoting it even further to counter the common threat of terrorism.

The Prime Minister expressed these views while talking to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry here at his hotel in Washington-DC late Tuesday evening.

During meeting with Secretary Clinton, the Prime Minister urged the US Government to fast track the funding process for undertaking the up-gradation of existing power generation and transmission infrastructure to help overcome the powershortages in Pakistan.

He further stated that addressing the energy crises in the country was the fore-most priority of his government and the US should encourage its corporate sector to invest in this sector in Pakistan.

While dilating upon the combined impact of world recession and war on terror, on Pakistan’s economy, the Prime Minister sought US help in negotiations with IMF to soften its conditionality thus enabling the government to provide much needed relief to the people. He also hoped that the US would use its influence with other donor countries to honour their pledges made at the Tokyo Conference.

The Prime Minister stated that improvement in the economic life of the people of Pakistan is intrinsically linked to political stability in the country. The Parliamentary democracy has taken roots in Pakistan with unanimous passage of constitutionalreforms package and expressed confidence that with steadfast support of US and other friendly countries for economic development, the democratic institutions would be further strengthened in Pakistan.

The Prime Minister reiterated his governments firm resolve to maintain cordial neighbourly ties with India and Afghanistan. He apprised the US Secretary of State of his personal initiatives to mend the ties with both the countries in the interest of peace and security of the region. He regretted that Pakistan-India relations had been made hostage to the unfortunate act of terror.

While Pakistan, he said, remains committed to prosecute and bring to justice the perpetrators of Bombay incident, India must return to composite dialogue to sincerely address the bilateral core issues. He said that Pakistan would welcome the US facilitation in the process.

The Prime Minister said that Pakistan stands by its offer of assistance to Afghanistan for the capacity building of its army, police and civilian institutions. Afghan peace and stability is vital for Pakistan’s own peace and security and we would continue to support Afghan government’s initiatives in this regard.

Secretary Clinton professedly praised the Prime Minister for his leadership and consensus making ability and vision for fostering friendly relations with Pakistan’s neighbours.

She also agreed with Prime Minister’s assessment on the progress of Pakistan-US relations and informed him that she will try to visit Pakistan in July rather than in October to lead the next round of strategic dialogue between the two countries in Islamabad along with her Pakistani counterpart.

Secretary Clinton assured the Prime Minister that USA will stand by Pakistan in its endeavors to overcome its present economic difficulties particularly in addressing the energy crises.

She termed Pakistan’s participation in Security Summit as recognition of its status as a responsible nuclear state. She referred to the statement made by President Obama in his press conference, earlier in the day about the measures taken and security of its nuclear assets and stated that it was an official public affirmation of US satisfaction and repudiction of misperceptions in this regard.

Bother leaders agreed to consult and coordinate for helping Afghan government in its policy of reconciliation and building its state institutions.

Later, during meeting with Senator John Kerry, Prime Minister Gilani termed his meetings with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as very productive and useful in determining the direction of the strategic partnership between Pakistan and USA. He expressed his satisfaction over the progress made by both the countries in the course of last two years in strengthening cooperation in multi-faceted fields.

The Prime Minister appreciated the positive role played by the US Congressional leadership particularly by Senator John Kerry in promoting the economic and security ties through passage of Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill as well as defence appropriationlegislation.

While dilating upon Pakistan’s efforts on war against terrorism the Prime Minister said that the whole nation is committed for the eradication of the menace.

Senator John Kerry while commending Pakistan’s positive role in war against terrorism assured the Prime Minister of complete support of Congress Leadership for providing Pakistan with greater US market access, meeting Pakistan’s urgent defence requirement and accommodating Pakistan’s request for nuclear power generation.

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