The sixth round of ministerial level US-Pakistan strategic dialogue will focus on enhancing cooperation in trade, investments, defence and counter terrorism. The dialogue will be held in Washington DC on February 29. Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs would be representing the Pakistan side, while Secretary of State John Kerry would be representing the US side.
The strategic dialogue is divided into six segments that comprise cooperation in economy and finance, energy, education, science and technology, law enforcement and counter terrorism, security, strategic stability and non-proliferation and defence sectors. “The upcoming meeting will afford an important opportunity to take stock of the entire gamut of Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the US,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said.
In recent years the relations between the two countries has been adrift in the wake of the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by the US Navy Seals and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Thenceforth, US has been pressurising Pakistan to crackdown on terror groups on its soil and impressed upon the international community as well to pressurise Pakistan to co-operate in counter-terror activities. US President Barack Obama has not made even a single visit to Pakistan during his 7 years as President; while on the other hand, he has made two visits to India. The growing proximity between US and India in the last decade has also made Pakistan insecure. To counter the US-India partnership, Pakistan has been gravitating towards China, its all-weather ally. However, in recent months, following Mr Sharif’s visit to Washington DC in 2015, the US-Pakistan relations have been reinvigorated and this was evident with the recent sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan by the US.
The bilateral trade between US and Pakistan stood at more than $5 billion in 2015. The US is Pakistan’s largest bilateral trading partner. It is also one of the top sources of foreign direct investment to Pakistan, with an investment of $209 million in 2015. US is home to a 5,00,000 strong Pakistani Diaspora. Pakistan has taken steps to liberalise its trade and investment regimes to improve trade relations with countries such as US and China.
Defence and Security Cooperation
U.S. security assistance to Pakistan has focused on strengthening the counter-terrorism (CT) and counter-insurgency (COIN) capabilities of the Pakistan security forces. The US has agreed to sell F-16 jets to Pakistan to counter terror groups in Pakistan. This decision as expected has not gone down well with India, which even summoned the US envoy Richard Verma to express its displeasure. U.S. security assistance has directly supported Pakistan’s CT operations in the FATA region.
The US provided $265 million in 2015 to Pakistan under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to help the latter develop its capabilities in its CT operations in the long-term. The FMF also aims to improve Pakistan’s ability to participate in maritime security operations and counter-maritime piracy.
The US also provided $5 million in 2015 under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) that enhances the professionalism of Pakistan’s military. The training also seeks to strengthen long-term military relationships between Pakistan and the US.
Pakistan’s endeavour of increasing its military co-operation with the US and China is a cause for concern to India, in the light of India’s past experiences with these two neighbours. In more recent times, India and Pakistan have attempted to normalise relationships, but in light of the recent Pathankot terror attacks and the sale of F-16 by the US to Pakistan has caused strains in these efforts.