U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Joint Statement

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 1, 2016

Pakistan’s Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and United States Secretary of State John Kerry met on February 29 in Washington to convene the sixth ministerial-level Pakistan-U.S. Strategic Dialogue. The last ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue was held in Islamabad on January 13, 2015. This session built on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s successful visit to Washington in October 2015, with the two sides reiterating their commitment to further strengthening the United States’ and Pakistan’s strong, multifaceted partnership across a range of critical issues, as exemplified by the framework of the Strategic Dialogue.

Both sides expressed their conviction that a robust, long-term bilateral relationship remains critical to regional and international security and prosperity. Both sides agreed that a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan is an essential partner for the United States in advancing these shared goals. As such, the United States and Pakistan have a shared and enduring interest in Pakistan’s continued economic growth and prosperity, increased bilateral trade and investment, education and social development, respect for human rights and rule of law, regional stability, and ongoing collaboration on measures to counter violent extremism and combat terrorism.

The two reaffirmed the importance of the Strategic Dialogue, which provides vision and direction for this bilateral partnership, and reviewed progress made in its six working groups, which represent core areas of joint interest and cooperation: 1) Energy; 2) Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation; 3) the Defense Consultative Group; 4) Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism; 5) Economics and Finance; and 6) Education, Science, and Technology. They also acknowledged the importance of sustaining cooperation on shared interests through U.S. civilian assistance, in line with the intent of legislation known as the “Kerry-Lugar-Berman” act. Finally, they charged the Working Groups with continuing to meet according to a mutually determined schedule.

Expanding Trade and Accelerating Economic Growth

Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz reaffirmed their shared commitment to expand and deepen bilateral trade, investment and environmental cooperation. Secretary Kerry commended the steps Pakistan has taken to implement an economic reform agenda, which has advanced Pakistan’s macroeconomic stability and improved growth, including the government’s commitment to complete the set of home grown reforms that are being supported by the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other multilateral financial institutions. Both sides affirmed that continued reforms will make Pakistan more economically competitive and attractive for foreign investment.

Taking into account the importance with which Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and President Barack Obama hold deepening bilateral trade and investment relations as the most effective, mutually beneficial, and durable form of bilateral economic partnership, the two sides agreed to intensify discussion on trade and investment related initiatives as a core area of joint interest.

Both sides agreed that the modernization of Pakistan’s economy through better technology, improved business climate, entrepreneurship, enhanced worker rights, and opportunities for women will drive the country’s economic growth. The recent visit of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce trade delegation to Pakistan reflected the great potential of their economic ties to benefit the private sectors of both countries. Secretary Kerry welcomed Pakistan’s participation in the Global Connect Initiative, which aims to link an additional 1.5 billion people worldwide to the internet by 2020. The Pakistani delegation highlighted its “Smart Universities” public-private partnership with U.S. company CISCO, which will provide Wi-Fi broadband access to 100 Pakistani university campuses nationwide. Secretary Kerry highlighted the success of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, which harnesses the power of the private sector in both countries to foster women’s economic advancement. Noting that the Council has brought on four corporate members committed to expand women’s entrepreneurship, employment, and access to higher education in Pakistan, he underscored U.S. interest in continuing joint cooperation on women’s economic empowerment.

The United States reiterated that it sees Pakistan’s prosperity as both good for the region and good for the United States. Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz reflected with satisfaction on Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s visit to Islamabad for U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week in 2015. They also looked forward to the fourth annual U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference, the first to be held in the United States, which will bring scores of U.S. and Pakistani executives from across all sectors to New York City this year, and a meeting under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2016.

Education, Science, and Technology

Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz applauded the reinstitution of the Education, Science, and Technology Working Group in June 2015 in Islamabad as an important mechanism through which to facilitate and emphasize the already extensive U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in these vital fields. Under the rubric of a new “U.S.-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor” and Pakistan’s Vision 2025 development plan, both sides committed to both expanding U.S.-Pakistan education cooperation and strengthening Pakistan’s education system, which serve as engines of economic growth and prosperity. Advisor Aziz reiterated Prime Minister Sharif’s commitment to double Pakistan’s education expenditures from two to four percent of gross domestic product by 2018, including by expanding girls’ access to education.

Secretary Kerry noted that the Education, Science and Technology Working Group met this week on the margins of the Strategic Dialogue Ministerial, and lauded the February 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the Pakistan Higher Education Commission and the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan, in which Pakistan will fund up to 125 additional Pakistani PhD scholars from Pakistan to study in the United States through the Fulbright program over five years. Complementing what is already the largest U.S. investment in the Fulbright program worldwide, Pakistan’s commitment solidifies Fulbright and exchange programs as a step towards building a lasting U.S.-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor that already includes over 15,000 alumni of U.S. programs throughout Pakistan. Advisor Aziz praised the U.S. Merit and Need Based Scholarships Program for Bachelors and Masters level students studying at Pakistani universities, and highlighted Pakistan’s urgent need to expand its faculty in its higher education system in order to provide quality education to its youth by training 10,000 PhDs by 2025 at U.S. universities.

The two sides agreed to explore initiatives to enhance the number of educational opportunities for Pakistani students in the United States at the tertiary level, including increased numbers of PhDs at U.S. institutions. The United States is committed to facilitating the legitimate travel of Pakistani students who want to study at American academic institutions. Both sides resolved to set up a sub-working group for following and monitoring implementation.

Both sides also acknowledged the 23 existing partnerships between U.S. and Pakistani universities, their critical contributions to cultural and intellectual exchange, and the importance of sustaining them long-term. Both sides also noted the June 2015 launching of the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies, which established three cutting-edge partnerships in energy, water, and agriculture for academics, policymakers, and industry. The United States agreed to consider additional academic cooperation on Climate Change.

The Working Group also highlighted ongoing cooperation in critical science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, including the February 2016 Memorandum of Understanding signed by U.S. Ambassador Hale and Higher Education Commission Chairman Mukhtar to double joint funding for joint research grants under the U.S.-Pakistan Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement. The Working Group also deliberated on other important matters including the proposed revival of ties between the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Pakistan expressed interest in U.S. assistance in the areas of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), commercialization of technologies, and technology transfers.

As the next chapter in bilateral cooperation, Advisor Aziz reiterated Prime Minster Sharif’s commitment to expanding opportunities for girls, including under the Let Girls Learn initiative in Pakistan launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughter Maryam Sharif in October 2015. The Education, Science and Technology Working Group discussed the next steps toward achieving the initiative’s goals and objectives.

In recognition of the transnational nature of global health issues, the United States and Pakistan will each undergo and publish an external evaluation in 2016 of capabilities in each country to achieve the core capacities required by the World Health Organization International Health Regulations, including the targets of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Pakistan is developing a mutually agreed five-year GHSA roadmap to achieve the Agenda's eleven targets.

Both sides recognized the importance of civil society to the fundamental health and stability of all democratic societies. They also re-affirmed that International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) and civil society organizations can contribute to Pakistan’s national development goals and complement the work of the government. Secretary Kerry noted that any policy guidelines governing INGOs should be transparent and consistent with international norms. Advisor Aziz reiterated Prime Minister Sharif’s commitment that these guidelines will be reviewed and implemented in consultation with all stakeholders.

Continued Cooperation on Energy

The two sides reviewed the progress of their energy cooperation and that of the Energy Working Group since it last met in Islamabad in April, 2015.

Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz recognized the new chapter in U.S.-Pakistan energy cooperation, building on substantial cooperation to date that has already helped Pakistan add over 1,750 megawatts to its electric grid, facilitate private investment in the sector, and begin imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership, launched by President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif in October 2015, will facilitate new private sector investment in clean energy in Pakistan – particularly in hydroelectric, natural gas, wind, solar, and biomass energy sectors. Through these investments in power generation, transmission, and distribution, the partnership aims to add 3,000 megawatts to Pakistan’s electricity supply by 2020. Both countries agreed to prepare a roadmap for achieving this target in each of the aforementioned areas. Both sides acknowledged the success of the first initiative under the Partnership, the U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Conference, hosted in Washington in December 2015, and attended by leading energy firms and financiers.

Pakistan also thanked the United States for its support for facilitating U.S. private sector investment in energy projects through USAID and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). They appreciated OPIC’s work with the Government of Pakistan and private investors to facilitate investment in Pakistan, through the financing of five wind power projects.

Following up on the last meeting of the Energy Working Group in April 2015, Advisor Aziz also noted the significance of the U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories visit to Islamabad in February 2016 to foster lasting technical collaboration, to help Pakistan design its own integrated energy plan, and to improve its grid and energy efficiency. This will be followed by an integrated energy planning conference in April 2016, co-sponsored by USAID, the National University of Sciences and Technology, Arizona State University, and the University of Engineering and Technology – Peshawar.

The two delegations expressed appreciation for the fact that, by partnering on cleaner energy technologies, the United States and Pakistan are also partnering to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Both countries recognized the importance of following up on the Paris climate commitment, including their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Further, the two sides reaffirmed their respective countries’ commitments to work together to amend the Montreal Protocol this year to curb the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, acknowledging that the impact on Pakistan’s economy and industry would be taken into account. They welcomed the next meeting of the Energy Working Group in March 2016, which will highlight new areas for U.S. clean energy investment in Pakistan and provide strategic direction to the two countries’ energy partnership for the coming years.

Fostering Strategic Stability

The delegations reaffirmed the great importance that both countries attach to preventing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery to states as well as non-state actors. The United States and Pakistan resolved to continue to work together to achieve the objectives of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1540, and noted that both have supported and implemented relevant UNSC Resolutions.

Both countries highlighted the constructive discussion at the 2015 meeting of the Security, Strategic Stability and Nonproliferation (SSS&NP) working group. The United States acknowledged Pakistan's ongoing efforts to harmonize its strategic trade controls with those of the multilateral export control regimes. The United States noted appreciation for Pakistan's proactive engagement with the international community, including through its hosting of IAEA training activities at its Nuclear Security Center of Excellence and its active participation in the Nuclear Security Summits. The United States looked forward to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's participation in the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit and appreciated Pakistan's commitment, in principle, to ratify the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Pakistan affirmed that it remains committed to pursuing measures aimed at building confidence and lessening the risk of armed conflict. Both sides recognized the shared interest in strategic stability in South Asia and in pursuing increased transparency. The two sides look forward to the upcoming SSS&NP working group meeting in May 2016.

Continued Cooperation on Law Enforcement and Countering Terrorism

The two countries agreed on the need for effective action against all violent extremists, specifically underscoring that no country’s territory should be used to destabilize other countries. The United States expressed appreciation for the sacrifices of Pakistan’s security personnel and civilians in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to countering terrorism including by targeting all terrorists without discrimination. Advisor Aziz affirmed the Government of Pakistan’s resolve to take effective action against United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including al-Qa’ida, the Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and its affiliates, as per its international commitments and obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Financial Action Task Force. The United States and Pakistan committed to continue promoting peace, stability, and transparency in the region and to eliminate the threats posed by violent extremism and terrorism.

The two sides looked forward to the upcoming Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism working group meeting where the United States and Pakistan will work together to further bolster the capacity of Pakistan’s judicial and law enforcement authorities to enforce the rule of law and combat terrorism, including the financing of terrorism. The two sides agreed to further enhance cooperation between their respective counter terrorism authorities. Additionally, both states emphasized the importance of efforts to enhance bilateral cooperation and information-sharing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, including through joint training, to better interdict the flow of illicit materials and narcotics. The two sides also agreed to continue efforts to encourage the recruitment, retention, and advancement of policewomen. The two sides also emphasized the importance of strengthening Pakistan’s capabilities to more effectively counter the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The United States expressed appreciation for Pakistani efforts in this regard.

The United States expressed its concern regarding U.S. citizens being held hostage by terrorist groups in the region and Pakistan agreed it would assist in every way possible with the safe return of American and other hostages.

Defense and Security Cooperation

Both sides noted the importance of U.S.-Pakistan defense cooperation, which supports shared strategic objectives relating to counterterrorism and regional stability. Both the United States and Pakistani delegations expressed their desire for the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral security relationship to continue on a mutually beneficial and sustainable trajectory. The United States reiterated its continuing support for the Armed Forces of Pakistan in their ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and disruption of militant networks. The United States also expressed appreciation for the sacrifices made by Pakistani security forces and civilians in these efforts. The Pakistani delegation expressed its appreciation for U.S. support in bolstering Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capacity. Both sides underscored the importance of bilateral defense cooperation as serving their mutual interest and noted their willingness to explore new avenues to refine defense collaboration. Both sides noted the challenges of enabling the return of internally displaced persons to the FATA in the wake of operations. Pakistan expressed its appreciation for the pledge of $250 million announced by Secretary Kerry in 2015 for the relief, recovery and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons from the FATA. The United States continues to partner with Pakistan to reconstruct schools, hospitals, and infrastructure to restore communities in the FATA and assist in the return of people to their homes.

Both sides underscored the need for effective action against all violent extremists that threaten regional security. The United States expressed appreciation for the role Pakistan has played in helping to degrade al-Qa’ida and its affiliates. Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to taking action, in line with the country’s National Action Plan, to ensure that the Taliban are unable to operate from Pakistani soil. Acknowledging the emerging terrorist threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh in the region, the U.S. and Pakistani delegations agreed that their countries should work closely together to counter this threat of mutual concern, and affirmed their commitment to combat the extremist ideology that fuels such groups. Pakistan reiterated its firm resolve not to allow ISIL/Da’esh to develop a foothold in its territory, and the United States expressed its appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts in this regard.

Regional Cooperation

The United States commended Pakistan’s role in hosting the successful 2015 Heart of Asia Conference, designed to bolster regional cooperation. Secretary Kerry welcomed Pakistan’s commitment to facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. The two sides underscored the imperative of quickly catalyzing direct peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban to end the bloodshed and preserve Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Secretary Kerry welcomed Pakistan’s calls on the Taliban to seek a negotiated settlement to end the Afghan conflict and its constructive role in establishing and hosting the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), an important regional initiative that brings together representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States to achieve the shared objective of initiating peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban. It was agreed that all members of the QCG will intensify their efforts to forge broader regional consensus in support of the Afghan-led reconciliation process as the best way to bring peace and stability to the region.

The United States and Pakistan emphasized the importance of meaningful dialogue in support of peaceful resolution of outstanding issues, including Kashmir. The delegations underscored that all parties in the region should continuously act with maximum restraint and work collaboratively toward reducing tensions. Noting the steps taken by Pakistan to date, including the detention of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Maulana Masood Azhar, the United States appreciated Prime Minister Sharif’s stated commitment to take prompt and decisive action on this investigation and to bring the perpetrators of the January 2, 2016 attack on the Pathankot air base to justice.

The United States commended Pakistan’s exemplary generosity in hosting one of the largest, longest lasting refugee populations and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees, returnees, and displaced persons in the region. The two sides reiterated their commitment to facilitate the orderly return and reintegration of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan.

Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz further commended the substantial progress made by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan on the CASA-1000 electricity project. The four countries are now working together for implementation of the project by 2018. They welcomed the inaugural ceremony of the CASA-1000 project, to be hosted by Tajikistan in Dushanbe in May 2016.

Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz also commended the progress being made on the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline project. They noted with appreciation the groundbreaking ceremony of the TAPI project at Mary, Turkmenistan in December 2015, which was also attended by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, among other leaders. Such regional projects would greatly facilitate regional integration and cooperation.

Recognizing the opportunities and challenges presented by information and communications technologies, both countries agreed that international cooperation is essential to make cyberspace secure and stable, and look forward to continued engagement on cyber issues.

Looking Ahead

Secretary Kerry and Advisor Aziz committed to further strengthening the long-term partnership between the United States and Pakistan, built on robust cooperation across a wide range of issues and reflecting shared interests and common values. The two sides reiterated their commitment to democracy, human rights, economic growth, and respect for international law as essential for long-term regional peace and prosperity, and agreed that the two governments would meet for the next Ministerial-Level Strategic Dialogue in 2017.