Zardari Urges Obama To Recast Pak-US Ties For Peace, Stability, Help Resolve Kashmir Conflict

28 January 2009
Associated Press of Pakistan

Washington DC: Advocating the need for recasting Pakistan U.S. relationship into a longterm partnership for peace, stability and development, President Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday asked President Bararck Obama to help resolve the lingering Kashmir dispute that remains at the heart of South Asian unrest and challenges like extremism. “President Obama understands that for Pakistan to defeat the extremists, it must be stable. For democracy to succeed, Pakistan must be economically viable,” Zardari wrote in an article in The Washington Post in which he congratulated the new U.S. leader on assumption of office and extended Pakistan’s “hand in friendship”. As part of economic empowerment efforts, President Zardari called for swift progress towards realization of economic assistance expansion initiative (BidenLugar legislation) in Congress as well as the preferential trade program of reconstruction opportunity zones and said, “assistance to Pakistan is not charity.” “Rather, the creation of a politically stable and economically viable Pakistan is in the longterm, strategic interest of the United States,” he added. Zardari renewed Pakistan”s determination to curb the menace of terrorism in its own interest and called for equipping Pakistan with modern security tools and technology to proactively fight the terrorists “on our terms.” Welcoming the appointment of seasoned diplomat Richard Holbrooke as special representative for the region, the president said it reflects much about Obama’s “worldview and his understanding of the complexities of peace and stability and the threats of extremism and terrorism.” “Simply put, we must move beyond rhetoric and tackle the hard problems,” Zardari emphasized. “The situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India is indeed critical, but its severity actually presents an opportunity for aggressive and innovative action,” Zardari said. With his experience, Ambassador Holbrooke surely understands that peace in the region can be secured only by addressing longterm and neglected problems. “Much as the Palestinian issue remains the core obstacle to peace in the Middle East, the question of Kashmir must be addressed in some meaningful way to bring stability to this region. We hope that the special envoy will work with India and Pakistan not only to bring a just and reasonable resolution to the issues of Kashmir and Jammu but also to address critical economic and environmental concerns.” “The water crisis in Pakistan is directly linked to relations with India. Resolution could prevent an environmental catastrophe in South Asia, but failure to do so could fuel the fires of discontent that lead to extremism and terrorism. We applaud the president’s desire to engage our nation and India to defuse the tensions between us.” Regarding his democratically elected government’s efforts to address problems facing the country, President Zardari said “since the end of the (Pervez) Musharraf dictatorship, Pakistan has worked to confront the challenges of a young democracy facing an active insurgency, within the context of an international economic crisis.” Ambassador Holbrooke, he said, will soon discover that “Pakistan is far more than a rhetorical partner in the fight against extremism.” “Unlike in the 1980s, we are surrogates for no one. With all due respect, we need no lectures on our commitment. This is our war. It is our children and wives who are dying.” Holbrooke, the president said, “will encounter a region of interrelated issues crossing borders-old problems that have been left to fester, new realities in an era of active terrorism, and the residual consequences of past Western support for dictatorships and disregard for economic and social development.” He pointed out that for almost 60 years the relationship between Pakistan and America has been based on quid pro quo policies with shortterm goals and no longterm strategy. “Frankly, the abandonment of Afghanistan and Pakistan after the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s set the stage for the era of terrorism that we are enduring. U.S. support for the priorities of dictatorship back then, and again at the start of the new millennium, neglected the social and economic development of our nation, the priorities of the people. We must do better.” Citing Pakistan’s antiterrorism actions over the past several months, President Zardari said remarkable progress has been made in its battle against the Taliban and alQaeda. “ We are willing to act to save our nation. To the extent that we are unable to fully execute battle plans, we urge the United States to give us necessary resources-upgrading our equipment and providing the newest technology-so that we can fight the terrorists proactively on our terms, not reactively on their terms. Give us the tools, and we will get the job done.” Pakistan and the United States, he said, “have much in common and should be partners in peace.” “This moment of crisis is an opportunity to recast our relationship. We are extending our hand in friendship. Indeed, Pakistan’s new democracy has pried open the clenched fists of the extremists, to use a metaphor from President Obama’s inaugural address. Let it not be said by future generations that our nations missed an extraordinary opportunity to build lasting peace in South Asia.”