Opening Session of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Remarks With Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
March 24, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning and let me welcome all of you, particularly our distinguished colleagues and friends from Pakistan. Welcome to the Ben Franklin Room. His portrait is above us over the fireplace. He’s one of our great heroes in the founding of our country. And I know that Pakistan just had its national day, so we are delighted that during this week we could hold this extremely important Strategic Dialogue.


As you can see I am joined by a number of officials from the United States Government, including Secretary of Defense Bob Gates; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah; Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew; Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan; Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis; many other distinguished officials from across our government; and of course, our Ambassador Anne Patterson, who we’re always happy to see here in Washington. And together we welcome Foreign Minister Qureshi and the other distinguished members of the Pakistani delegation.


We have been looking forward to this meeting for a long time. It is the culmination of months of work by people in both our countries. It is the next step in a relationship that stretches back to Pakistan’s earliest days, but it is also the start of something new – a new phase in our partnership, with a new focus and a renewed commitment to work together to achieve the goals we share: stability, prosperity, opportunity for the people of both Pakistan and the United States.


Now, this is not the first Strategic Dialogue between our countries, but it is the first led by a Foreign Minister and a United States Secretary of State, and it reflects our government’s commitment to its success. During my visit to Pakistan in October, Foreign Minister Qureshi and I agreed that it was time for a Strategic Dialogue of this caliber to ensure that the work we do together will yield real and lasting benefits for our citizens. So during the next two days, we will determine concrete steps that our countries will take to advance our work in key areas, including addressing Pakistan’s urgent energy needs and helping communities damaged by violence to rebuild. More broadly, we will discuss our goals and vision for our partnership’s long-term future and set forth a schedule for that future.


Pakistan and the United States have come together at critical moments throughout our history. We have provided aid and support to each other at trying times. We have faced wars and responded to natural disasters together. Over the years, our relationship has been tested, but it has always endured. And I am pleased we have come together again – at this critical moment – to reinforce our ties and recommit to building a partnership that will last.


The United States comes to this Dialogue with great respect for the nation and people of Pakistan. We recognize the central role that Pakistan plays in promoting security and prosperity. And that is not only for itself but throughout South Asia. Pakistan’s stability and prosperity is in the best interests of people everywhere. Its struggles are our struggles. Its future and ours are entwined. And its people and our people share many of the same dreams, dreams we are more likely to achieve working together.


On a personal note, Pakistan is close to my heart. I have relished my visits and especially last October, when I spent several days meeting with people from across the country, hearing their views and sharing my own. Pakistan is also home to dear friends of mine. And it is the homeland of several members of my staff, as well as tens of thousands of Pakistani Americans, many of whom I was proud to represent as a senator for New York. So I have both a personal and a professional interest in Pakistan’s future. It’s one of the reasons why I was so pleased to set up a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the first time with Ambassador Holbrooke and the first-class team that he has compiled. And I am committed to the success of this Dialogue, which offers a chance to accelerate our efforts to promote security and opportunity in Pakistan and beyond.


Let me just say a few words about security, and I see General Kayani and members of the military, and we are very pleased that you here with us. Pakistan stands at the front line of a struggle against violent extremism, which has inflicted terrible costs on the people of Pakistan. For months, the Taliban has waged war against the Government of Pakistan. Thousands of soldiers have given their lives to protect their country. Innocent men, women, and children have been killed in markets and schools, at police stations, and even in mosques. This violence is both senseless and part of a larger perverse strategy to destabilize Pakistan and allow extremist groups the freedom to consolidate power and plot further violence in Pakistan and beyond.


But the people and Government of Pakistan have responded to these attacks with courage and resolve. The Pakistani authorities have recently arrested key leaders of the Taliban. The Pakistani Army continues to fight the extremists. And the democratically elected Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani people have shown extraordinary strength in their determination to rebuild their communities and rid their country of those who seek to destroy it.


So to the people and Government of Pakistan, the United States pledges our full support. You are fighting a war whose outcome is critical; first and foremost, of course, for the people of Pakistan, but it will also have regional and global repercussions. And so strengthening and advancing your security remains a key priority of our relationship.


But security means more than defeating an insurgency. It also means creating the conditions that allow people to participate fully in their communities and to lead healthy, productive, fulfilling lives. I often say that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. And until opportunity is available to all citizens, the kind of progress Pakistan deserves will remain elusive.


During my visit to Pakistan last October, people shared with me their stories of the challenges they face every day. They told me about the scarcity of clean water, the energy shortages that cause regular blackouts that last for hours. They told me about the farmers who were struggling, the young people who want to work and contribute but can’t find a job.


With this Dialogue, we want to think about security in the broadest possible terms – not just what we commonly think of as national security, but the full range of political, economic, and social issues that shape the daily life of people everywhere. Here in the United States, we call these “kitchen table” issues, because families across our country often gather around the kitchen table to discuss them. Now, while we may not sit down at a kitchen table today, we will be focusing on these critical issues and planning the next steps we will take together to achieve them.


The United States is demonstrating our commitment to supporting the people of Pakistan. In addition to our humanitarian assistance to citizens displaced by violence, we have significantly increased our overall non-military assistance through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman initiative, the legislation passed last year. That was a landmark, long-term investment in Pakistan’s economy and its civilian institutions. Now, we are redirecting our assistance to priorities identified by Pakistan’s democratically elected civilian government, including energy and water initiatives. And under the leadership of the United States Agency for International Development, we are increasing our efforts to promote sustainable development and broad prosperity.


These are urgent goals, but they can only be achieved through patient, persistent efforts. So let me be clear: today’s Dialogue is not a one-time event. It is the first in a series of continuing, substantive discussions that will continue in the months ahead, as representatives from both our countries meet to look at the goals that we set and to figure out how we can make progress together. And it will continue later this year, when our teams will go to Islamabad for the next round of the Strategic Dialogue.


Now, while meeting is in itself an important first step, we cannot be satisfied with talking alone. Our success will be determined not by how often we gather in government summits, but in how well our partnership translates into lasting progress for the millions who live in cities and villages far from the halls of power and whose lives will be shaped by our actions. Bettering the lives of people must remain the motivation for everything we do. And our partnership must also foster a greater understanding between our nations and our people.


We know that, in recent years, misperceptions and mistrust have grown between our countries, on both sides of the relationship. Foreign Minister Qureshi and I have worked hard to overcome that. Other of our colleagues, both on the civilian and the military side, have worked equally hard to build greater trust and begin a new chapter in our relationship. Yet I am aware that some skepticism still remains.

So I want to say a word directly to the people of Pakistan. Our countries have had our misunderstandings and disagreements in the past. And there are sure to be more disagreements in the future, as there are between any friends or, frankly, any family members. But this is a new day. For the past year, the Obama Administration has shown in our words and our deeds a different approach and a different attitude toward Pakistan. This was a personal priority of President Obama’s and mine from the start of this Administration, and it will continue to be one.


The dialogue we seek is not only with the government of Pakistan, but with you, the people of Pakistan. This was one of the purposes for my trip in October. And together, we began a conversation that has continued, including earlier this week, when I met with journalists from Pakistan. It is a dialogue that we hope will expand and endure, and include more and more Pakistanis and Americans because we believe there is no limit to what the Pakistani and American people can accomplish together, particularly in this interconnected age, when it is so easy to communicate and collaborate, government-to-government, business-to-business, student-to-student, and citizen-to-citizen. So I urge every Pakistani and every American following our work here today to take on this mission as your own. Our countries are poised to deepen our partnership for our mutual progress, but we can only succeed with your support.


There is much work to be done, and that work is both exciting and somewhat overwhelming, because we know that nothing changes overnight. It doesn’t change with the best of intentions; it doesn’t change because we wish it to change. It only changes with hard work. In fact, I remember when I read about and had my staff pull for me the words of the sister of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Allah – Ali Jinnah – Fatima Jinnah – who was a great carrier of his legacy after his early death. She continued his mission for many years, always urging the people of Pakistan to press ahead. It won’t surprise you that I often turn to women and their quotes and their work when I look through history, because their voices are too often forgotten. But what she said on Pakistan Day in 1952, the fourth anniversary of independence, was so telling to me. She noted the achievements that Pakistan had already made, though they were, as she put it, “an unaided people in their march toward their destiny.” And she concluded by quoting Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s words, his recipe for progress: Work, work, and more work.


Well, Pakistan is no longer unaided, marching toward your destiny. The United States is proud to stand and march with you. But now we are called, all of us, to work, work, and more work, today, tomorrow, and the months ahead for the citizens of our countries and many others whose futures will be influenced by our partnership.


I’m very pleased now, and it’s a great honor for me to introduce my partner and my counterpart, someone who I have very much appreciated working with over the past many months now, Foreign Minister Qureshi.


FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by thanking you for your warm words of welcome and your reaffirmation of the vital importance of Pakistan-U.S. relations. My colleagues and I myself have been touched by the gracious hospitality extended to us since our arrival in Washington. I bring with me the warmest greetings of the leadership and people of Pakistan for the friendly government and friendly people of the United States.


We are meeting today in the special backdrop of the 70th anniversary of adoption of the Pakistan Resolution, a landmark event in the history of South Asia and a defining moment in our struggle for freedom. The people of Pakistan remember with gratitude the valuable contribution made by the freedom-loving American people to our quest for independence and to forging close ties with our young nation. Consistent with its own values and principles, Pakistan made a conscious choice at the outset to join the free world alliance at a time when sitting on the fence was rightly considered immoral. Pakistan and the United States have since been close friends and allies.


On several occasions, our partnership has had a profound impact on the course of history. Pakistan’s role in the promotion of Sino-American rapprochement decisively tilted the East-West balance in favor of the free world. Our successful joint endeavors drove back the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, helped end the Cold War, and usher in a new era in world politics. In the post-9/11 period, our two nations have joined hands again to defeat the dark forces of extremism and terrorism that threaten us all.


As we recall these shining examples, we must also remember that many of these brooked sacrifices from the people of Pakistan. Red marks were placed on Pakistani cities, thousands of our innocent citizens became victims of foreign-sponsored sabotage, our society was exposed to massive refugee influx, as well as the devastating effects of illicit weapons and drugs, which continue to afflict us to this day.


Our resolute fight against militancy is evoking a stiff backlash manifested in repeated attacks and suicide bombings targeting our valiant security personnel and innocent civilians. Our economy continues to incur losses to the tune of billions of dollars, yet our resolve remains undiminished because it is a matter of standing up for your principles and facing the consequences that come in its wake.


I should also mention that the Pakistan-U.S. bilateral relationship did not always enjoy a sunny side. In fact, over the past six decades, it has seen all seasons. We’ve had development assistance, as well as crippling sanctions; engagement as well estrangement; spring punctuated with periods of autumn. But one lesson from this longstanding partnership is clear: Whenever the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has frayed, the interests of both our nations have suffered. Whenever we have worked together, both our nations and the world have benefited.


I, therefore, venture to stress that this is a dictate of our shared history that the Pakistan-U.S. relationships remain deep and sustainable, Madam Secretary. It is with this sense of history that we are approaching this renewed Strategic Dialogue. The two countries have started the structured dialogue process in April 2006 and rightly focused on priority areas like the economy, energy, education, science and technology, and agriculture. In several rounds of discussions in Washington and Islamabad, proposals and specific measures for closer collaboration in these sectors were outlined. However, despite best efforts on both sides, time and resource constraints prevented us from achieving concrete results.


Now is a time for look forward. Our renewed upgraded dialogue offers great hope. We believe it presents a great opportunity to reaffirm a longstanding alliance, to rededicate ourselves to the principles and values that have guided our relationship in the last six decades, and to craft together the vision of a broad-based, long-term, and enduring partnership for the 21st century.


Such a partnership we are convinced is good for Pakistan, good for America, and good for international peace, security, and prosperity. Such a partnership is important because Pakistan is a pivotal state with over 170 million people, rich in human and national endowment, full of huge untapped natural and energy resources awaiting extraction, strategically located at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and representing a democratic and moderate voice in the Islamic world. Such a partnership is necessary because Pakistan and the United States have a whole range of convergent interests, including fighting the twin menace of extremism and terrorism, stabilizing Afghanistan, promoting peace and stability in South Asia, linking the economic potential of South and Central Asia, curbing nuclear proliferation, and advancing progress and prosperity in the region and beyond.


Madam Secretary, under a new democratic leadership inspired by the ideals of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan remains engaged in a consequential effort to turn the tide against extremism and build a future of promise and hope for its people. For us, this is and will remain a strategic and moral imperative. We recognize that the United States also wants a stable, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan making steady progress towards the realization of the vision of its founding fathers. We have welcomed President Obama’s commitment to build a richer relationship with Pakistan, based on mutual respect, mutual interest, and mutual trust. We value the Kerry-Lugar-Berman initiative, which contains the potential to fundamentally transform the nature of our relationship and make it broad-based and people-centered.


It is our earnest hope that the Strategic Dialogue we are upgrading today would help both sides take the relationship truly to a strategic plane. In this regard, our point of departure must remain that positive and robust engagement between Pakistan and the U.S. is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and beyond.


We must also remember that an enduring partnership can only be built and sustained on the strength of a close people-to-people relationship. Indeed, strong public support is indispensible for any initiative to bring our two nations closer and jointly promote our common goals. A Pakistan-U.S. relationship that touches the lives of ordinary people, responds to their vital needs, and makes a positive difference in the pursuit of their aspirations for a better life would form the solid foundation as well as a best guarantee for a sustained strategic partnership between our two nations. As such, we hope that, together, Pakistan and the U.S. can build a robust economic partnership which rests primarily on increased trade and market access, so that we can expand economic opportunities in Pakistan and fight extremism strategically. We hope non-discriminatory access to vital energy resources will also be available to us so that we, too, can pursue our economic and industrial development plans. We recognize that education is the bedrock of a progressive and democratic society. We hope there will be adequate resources to reinforce our efforts in this vital social sector.


Regionally, Pakistan is committed to doing its part to facilitate the world’s community effort for peace and stability in Afghanistan. We hope the world community will be equally responsive to our legitimate concerns and help advance common interests. Pakistan will continue to seek a peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes in South Asia, including Kashmir. We hope the United States will maintain its constructive engagement to encourage this process.


Madam Secretary, there are great expectations from the enterprise we are launching today. I’m conscious that it will not be without its challenges or complications either. There could be doubt from within, there will be smear from without, and there may be setbacks on the way. But I am confident that we have the requisite political will on both sides to pursue it successfully and to achieve concrete results because at the end of the day, it is in the mutual interest of our two nations to work together to advance our shared objectives. I assure you, Madam Secretary, that in the worthy cause of building an enduring partnership of mutual benefit between our two countries, we will meet you more than half the way. I thank you.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you very much, Foreign Minister. (Applause.)


I think at this point in the program, the press is going to be departing, as will some of our participants for other meetings during the day. So we’ll just take a minute so that we can give the press time to move and we can say goodbye to those who are leaving and then we’ll get back and begin the program.


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PRN: 2010/349