U.S., Pakistan Seek To Build Trust With Talks

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. i i

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi share a light moment Wednesday during a news conference. The two sides are in the midst of a strategic dialogue aimed at building a robust relationship and overcoming distrust. Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi share a light moment Wednesday during a news conference. The two sides are in the midst of a strategic dialogue aimed at building a robust relationship and overcoming distrust.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Senior U.S. and Pakistani officials meet Thursday in Washington for the second round of a so-called strategic dialogue aimed at a better long-term relationship.

Few people expected any big breakthroughs in the first round of talks between the two sides Wednesday. The nations' complicated relationship has been marked by a deep sense of mutual distrust for many years. Still, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is hosting the two-day event, said some headway was made — especially on security.

Progress Reported

"We discussed Pakistan's national security priorities, ongoing counterinsurgency operations and long-term military modernization and recapitalization efforts," Clinton said.

She said the two sides also discussed economic assistance, water and energy projects. Islamabad is pushing for a civilian nuclear cooperation deal, similar to the one Washington has with Pakistan's regional rival, India. During a news conference, Clinton wouldn't be drawn into a response to that request, saying only that the U.S. side will listen to whatever issues the Pakistani delegation raises.

Pakistan also put in requests for more military hardware. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said some of those requests were granted.

"We've agreed to fast-track our requests that have been pending for months and years on the transfer of military equipment to Pakistan," Qureshi said.

Qureshi didn't elaborate on the type of military equipment. Analysts say it's highly unlikely that Pakistan will receive the armed unmanned surveillance planes it has been asking for. U.S. officials say the strategic dialogue isn't just about one side asking and the other giving; it's about building a robust relationship and overcoming distrust.

Building Trust

The U.S. is pressing Pakistan to make an even greater commitment in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida, including the arrest of top militant leaders taking shelter on Pakistani soil.

George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says Pakistan wants reassurance from the U.S.

"What Pakistan is looking for primarily is that the U.S. will make a long-term commitment, that it would stay in Pakistan, not leave Pakistan as it has done at least once before," Perkovich said.

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, says that for months, senior U.S. officials have made regular trips to Pakistan for private meetings.

"The basic theory is that only by gradually building up personal trust, as well as finding areas of common interest at the national level, can we repair this relationship with time — partly because they know there will be no single turning point," O'Hanlon said. "You can't just find the right brilliant policy initiative and turn the relationship around on a dime. You're going to have to work at it over a period of years."

O'Hanlon said he doesn't believe relations between Pakistan and the U.S. have turned a corner, but he added that the strategic dialogue, even if it doesn't produce any sweeping results, is important.

Perkovich said the meetings are symbolic because both sides are willing to publicly show they're interested in talking.

"It's the public presentation of it and the sense of a little bit of grandiosity of it, reflects that the Pakistan leadership is now saying, 'It's not bad to be seen with the U.S,' " Perkovich said. "And similarly, the U.S. is saying, 'We have enough confidence that Pakistan is being cooperative and not entirely duplicitous.' "

Both sides indicate that they are willing to have similar meetings in the future.

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