WASHINGTON DC, Oct 21: The US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a dinner in honor of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his delegation at the State Department, soon after his arrival in the US capital.
Nawaz Sharif holds the portfolio of foreign affairs and defense himself, and therefore it was logical that he meet America’s highest diplomatic officials.
Interestingly, while Kerry wore a green tie, Nawaz donned a blue one.
From the US side, senior Administration officials including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Director CIA John Brennan and SRAP James Dobbins (AfPak) assisted the Secretary of State.
From Pakistan side, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani assisted the Prime Minister.
The US administration looks at Nawaz Sharif and his government as a stronger partner than Zardari’s in tackling issues of common interest that include Afghanistan and India-Pakistan dispute.
Ambassador Dobbin told the foreign press on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, “What distinguishes the current Pakistani Government from the previous one is this one has a much stronger mandate. It has a majority, an absolute majority in the parliament. It had a strong electoral result. It is therefore potentially a government that’s more capable of delivering on its promises, a government that’s more capable of addressing Pakistan’s pressing economic and security needs, and therefore is potentially a more powerful partner.”
In such backdrop, the dinner was reportedly simple with butternut squash soup, grilled halal lamb sirloin, pear tart, spiced pumpkin seeds, etc., but the discussion was understandably complex, according to a source.
The outcome was encouraging as both sides agreed that extremism can be countered in part by opportunities arising from greater economic stability. To that end, the U.S., Pakistan’s largest trading partner, remains committed, Kerry said, to an economic relationship increasingly based on trade and investment, according to a State Dept press statement released after the meeting.
Regional stability and the situation in Afghanistan were also discussed during the private dinner meet.
Sharif reiterated his determination to revive the economy and improve the law and order situation in Pakistan. Outlining his vision of promoting peace and stability in the region, Nawaz emphasized the need for the two countries to work together in meeting the common challenges of extremism and terrorism.
Secretary Kerry’s meeting with the Prime Minister was their third in three months. US-Pakistan share goal of a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan, as well as the common interest in a secure and stable Afghanistan, the statement said.
Kerry stressed that the US would work with Nawaz in all areas of bilateral relations under the revived mechanism of the Strategic Dialogue.
He further appreciated the bold decisions taken by Nawaz for reviving the economy and overcoming energy shortages.
Nawaz said that he looked forward to meeting with President Obama at the White House on October 23. This would be the first summit level interaction between the two countries after the historic democratic transition in Pakistan.
Earlier, upon his arrival at the Andrews Air Force Base in Washington for a three day official visit, Nawaz was accorded a warm welcome by the senior officials of the White House and the Department of State. A contingent of the US armed services also presented a guard of honor to the Prime Minister.