Remarks With Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar Before Their Meeting
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, and let me begin by welcoming Foreign Minister Khar on her first visit to Washington as foreign minister. We’ve had the opportunity to meet in Islamabad and other settings, but I am very pleased that we would have this chance to exchange views on our bilateral relationship as well as regional and global issues.
I want to begin by addressing the events of the day and the past week. Today, we’ve once again seen protests in several cities in Pakistan. Unfortunately, some of those protests have turned violent and, sadly, resulted in loss of life. I want to thank the Government of Pakistan for their efforts to protect our Embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Lahore, Peshawar, and Karachi.
And I want to be clear, as I have said on numerous occasions, the violence we have seen cannot be tolerated. There is no justification for violence. Of course, there is provocation, and we have certainly made clear that we do not in any way support provocation. We found the video that’s at the core of this series of events offensive, disgusting, reprehensible.
But that does not provide justification for violence, and therefore it is important for responsible leaders, indeed responsible people everywhere, to stand up and speak out against violence and particularly against those who would exploit this difficult moment to advance their own extremist ideologies.
Yesterday afternoon when I briefed the Congress, I made it clear that keeping our people everywhere in the world safe is our top priority. What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans. And we are taking aggressive measures at all of our posts to protect our staffs and their families along with locally employed people who provide so many important contributions to the work of our missions.
The Foreign Minister and I will have a chance to cover a full range of subjects today, and it is no secret that the past year and a half has been challenging for Pakistan and the United States. And we still have work to do to get our bilateral relationship to the point where we would like it to be, but we both recognize that we can achieve more when we work together on a focused agenda. So today is the latest in a series of high-level meetings. Ambassador Marc Grossman has just returned from consultations in Islamabad. I look forward to seeing President Zardari next week at the UN General Assembly. At each meeting, we are working to identify the strategic goals we share – and there are many – and the concrete actions we can each take to accomplish them.
Our number one shared priority remains pursuing our joint counterterrorism objectives to ensure the security of American and Pakistani citizens alike. We face a common threat from a common enemy, and we must confront terrorism and extremism together. Earlier this month, I designated the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization so we could make full use of every available legal authority to end their deadly attacks. Pakistan’s parliament has called for expelling foreign fighters so that Pakistan’s territory can be fully under control of the Pakistani Government and cannot be used to launch attacks against other nations.
And the follow-through on this is challenging but necessary, and we look forward to working with Pakistan as they continue to address these problems. We have both pledged to support a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan, which is vital for the security of the region. And I want to thank Foreign Minister Khar for Pakistan’s reopening of the NATO supply lines to allow the movement of goods to Afghanistan.
We will discuss the successful first meeting of the Safe Passage Working Group in Islamabad which brought together Afghan, Pakistani, and U.S. representatives to advance the peace process in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Government’s public call for insurgents to come forward and talk with the Afghan Government was particularly important. We are ready to work together to build on these steps, and we will continue our discussions through bilateral consultations and the U.S.-Afghanistan-Pakistan Core Group.
Now, of course, our relationship goes far beyond our shared security concerns, and today we will discuss the many other ways in which we work together, particularly to create economic opportunity for Pakistanis. Foreign Minister Khar and I agree that we need to shift our economic relationship from aid to trade and investment. We are working to help Pakistan attract more private sector investment. We hope to finalize a bilateral investment treaty soon. And we’ve created a Pakistan private investment initiative to help more of Pakistan’s small and medium sized companies get access to capital.
Over the past few years, we have seen Pakistan’s civilian government begin to put down stronger roots. And if elections proceed as planned next year, it will mark the first time in Pakistan’s history that a civilian-led government has served its full term. The United States supports Pakistan’s economic development, and we have said many times that we want to see democracy succeed in Pakistan.
We also support Pakistan’s sovereignty, but we are clear that all sovereign nations carry certain obligations to protect the human rights of their citizens, to control their territory, to prevent threats to their neighbors and the international community.
So we know that there is still much to be done, but I can assure the people of Pakistan that the United States remains committed to this important relationship and we are confident we can continue to move forward together one step at a time to reach our shared strategic objectives.
Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER KHAR: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Good afternoon to everyone. It is a pleasure for me to be here standing beside you. Allow me to begin from where you began, Madam Secretary, and to say that we appreciate the very strong condemnation and the very strong condemnation and the very strong words that were used by yourself, Madam Secretary, by President Obama, and as I met the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, by Senator Kerry; the condemnation of this blasphemous video, which has certainly stroked the sensitivities of the Muslims in the wrong way. Your condemnation has given a strong message that the United States Government not only condemns it but has absolutely no support to such blasphemous videos or content anywhere. I think that is an important message, and that message should go a long way in ending the violence on many streets in the world.
Madam Secretary, as we stand today, let’s recognize, first of all, that we have been through some of the most difficult times in our 60-year history as far as our relations with the United States are concerned. The last 18 months were very, very difficult, and they were difficult for many reasons. However, the fact that the two countries braved these last 18 months together shows that we have both a deep understanding of the importance of this relationship for the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States, also for the goals that we hope to achieve together of regional peace and stability.
So today, as we meet – which is, as you said, a continuation of series of important meetings which have already taken place – if I were to take a judgment call today, I think in the last few months we have done rather well, in some ways almost better than we could have expected to do in building the trust. And therefore, today we stand at a time of opportunity, at a time of opportunity to be able to seize the trust deficit mantra and start building on the trust by walking the talk that takes or achieves the interests which are clearly common.
So as we move forward, let me, first of all, appreciate the role that you personally played in building this relation, in bringing it back together. And let me say that Pakistanis are thankful for the support that the United States has given to Pakistan. I think the very recent example of Peshawar-Torkham Road is a very good example. There are many other examples. And as you said, it is important that we are able to build on the relations, build on the positives.
In this, I am happy that today, as we go through this meeting, we will be talking about building on an architecture of cooperation which will take these relations to be sustainable, to be predictable*, and most importantly, to be viewed by both the publics – the Americans here and Pakistanis there – to be pursuing their national interests; to be a relation which is based on mutual respect, which is based on mutual understanding, and which is seen to be pursuing the national goals and objectives of each country.
I see a lot of convergence between the two countries. I want to start on the bilateral track. I think we both agree that it is important that as we create this architecture of cooperation, fields in which this cooperation will be very important is that of economic and trade. Within the trade, we are, of course, happy to move on with BIT and we would be even more interested to work towards a preferential trade agreement or a preferential market access system whereby Pakistanis can be given the strong message that they – that the U.S. is committed to providing economic opportunities to Pakistanis who have suffered, who have suffered economically, who have suffered socially, and who have suffered in many, many ways.
What is also very important within this architecture is the counterterrorism cooperation that we can do together. I think the last few months, maybe the biggest negative externality of the dip in relations has been the counterterrorism objectives of both the countries. Because make no mistake: Terrorists of any type, breed, color, anywhere, are a threat to Pakistan as much as they are a threat to anyone. And it is for that reason that Pakistan stands today at the vanguard having compromised, having made the most sacrifices in blood and treasure than any other country in the world, having lost 30,000 civilians, having lost 6,000 soldiers to this fight, having a huge economic cost. Believe you me, Pakistan is a country which is committed to ridding this scourge from the region, especially for our country. And we do it to secure the future of our children and we do it to secure the future of the region.
Madam Secretary, we also have room to cooperate as we have cooperated in the energy sector. Allow me to share with you that with the assistance of the United States, we will be adding a few hundred megawatts to the Pakistani grid. We hope this cooperation will extend further and we will see U.S. cooperation even in Bhasha Dam, which is clearly a consensus project in Pakistan. Defense cooperation has already worked well, and we hope that this will be enhanced as we move forward.
Madam Secretary, perhaps today the strongest convergence of interests that we have is not in any of these bilateral tracks but in Afghanistan, because Afghanistan today represents a common challenge to both the countries. We are, of course, concerned of the reports that we hear from Afghanistan. We are concerned of some of the infiltration which is coming from Afghanistan inside Pakistan. We are also concerned about the security situation. And I think that the United States and Pakistan today have a unique opportunity to be able to work together to ensure that there is no security vacuum left in Afghanistan as we go through transition, that the Afghan people are able to decide for their own future and live as a sovereign, independent country which is a source of stability and peace in the region for the next 30 years.
So, Madam Secretary, I think we have a lot which unites us. We have a lot of convergences, and I just want to end by saying that one thing which has created challenges for us in Pakistan is for this relationship to be viewed singularly to be pursuing the national interest of the United States of America. Let me correct that perception and say that in pursuing our counterterrorism goals, in pursuing a better future within the region and pursuing a more stable and peaceful Afghanistan, we are indeed pursuing our own national interest.
And even though we may have differences of approach on some issues, I’m quite sure that as we talk more and as we go through this architecture of cooperation that I talked about, we can manage to find solutions to each of the difficulties also.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all.