US, Pakistan report only modest progress in talks
WASHINGTON — Pakistan's top diplomat said Wednesday that the United States is likely to pay Pakistan nearly $2 billion this spring that Pakistan says it is owed for cooperation against terrorism.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made no mention of that long-sought payment, or of plans to speed up approval for weapons sales sought by Pakistan, as the two nations reported only modest progress in discussions aimed at broadening their cooperation beyond the hunt for terrorists.
At the end of the first of two days of a high-level strategic dialogue, Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were all smiles as they announced that U.S.-Pakistan relationship has evolved into a partnership covering a wide swath of security and development programs.
"Today, I am a happy man, a satisfied man," a beaming Qureshi told reporters at a news conference with Clinton after the session. "We have upgraded the dialogue."
Qureshi said he expects the U.S. terrorism payment by the end of June and that the U.S. would put Pakistani requests for military equipment on a "fast track."
But Clinton referred only vaguely to a promise to work together in the future on a multiyear security package that would include military financing. She did not offer specifics.
Instead, she pointed to the passage last year by Congress of a $7.5 billion civilian assistance package and preliminary deals to improve roads in Pakistan's northwest and rehabilitate three thermal power plants and an agreement to allow Pakistan International Airlines to fly to Chicago through Barcelona, Spain.
"We have listened and we will continue to listen and we want to continue to demonstrate by both word and deed our respect for Pakistan's concerns and ideas and share our own," she said. She said the dialogue meant the expansion of the current security focus to include energy, development, education and agriculture.
American agreement to one of Pakistan's top priorities — to be recognized as a nuclear weapons power and forge an atomic energy deal with the United States like the one it has with rival India — also remained elusive.
Clinton said the Obama administration was committed to helping Pakistan with its chronic energy shortages but declined to respond substantively when asked about nuclear cooperation. "We will listen to and engage with our Pakistani partners" on whatever issues they want to raise, she said.
U.S. officials have concerns about Pakistan's record in transferring nuclear technology to states such as Libya and North Korea.
Pakistan would like to have a civil nuclear cooperation pact with the United States similar to the one its nuclear rival India has. Such a deal likely would require at least tacit acknowledgment that Pakistan, which detonated its first nuclear bomb in 1998, is a legitimate nuclear armed power, something the United States has refused to do.