By Arun Kumar
Washington, Mar 26 (IANS): Praising Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism, the United States has pledged tens of millions of dollars of aid for roads and power plants, but sidestepped Islamabad's demand for an India-type nuclear deal.
The announcements came in a joint statement Thursday as the two countries wrapped up their first Strategic Dialogue at the ministerial level, co-chaired by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
The US has also agreed to accelerate the disbursement of about $2 billion in military payments to compensate Pakistan for its military operations against extremists in the regions bordering Afghanistan, Qureshi said.
The New York Times cited administration officials as saying Pakistan was also likely to get swifter delivery of F-16 fighter jets, naval frigates and helicopter gunships, as well as new remotely piloted aircraft for surveillance missions.
"Clinton paid tribute to the courage and resolve of the people of Pakistan to eliminate terrorism and militancy. Both sides acknowledged the common threat that terrorism and extremism posed to global, regional and local security," the statement said.
"Pakistan expressed its appreciation for US security assistance. Both governments committed to redouble their efforts to deal effectively with terrorism and to protect the common ideals and shared values of democracy, tolerance, openness and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights," it added.
Comprehensively sharing perspectives on regional and global issues, "both reaffirmed the importance of advancing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region."
Separately, Dr. Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), signed an agreement to provide $51-million to upgrade three thermal power plants in Pakistan.
But the joint statement made no reference to Pakistan's demand to a civil nuclear trade agreement like the one US reached with India in 2008.
Sidestepping the Pakistani request, it said, the two sides discussed creating an investment fund to support increased foreign direct investment and development in Pakistan to "provide much needed additional support for Pakistan's energy sector and other high priority areas."
The $40-million in road aid will go for two key roads: the Peshawar Ring Road and the road from Kanju to Madyan in the former Taliban stronghold of Swat in North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan. The area was hit hard by a Pakistan army offensive last year to push the Taliban out, forcing many residents from their homes.
A Policy Steering Group was established to intensify and expand the sectoral dialogue process in the fields of: economy and trade; energy; defence; security, strategic stability and non-proliferation; law enforcement and counter-terrorism; science and technology; education; agriculture; water; health; and communications and public diplomacy.
A separate sectoral track to focus on water conservation, watershed management and US assistance in water projects was added. The US also committed to work towards enhanced market access for Pakistani products.