WASHINGTON: The United States recognises the importance of its relationship with Pakistan and is not seeking to downgrade the ties, says the State Department.
At a Wednesday afternoon briefing, the department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki rejected suggestions that a reduction in the Obama administration’s aid requests for Pakistan indicated Washington’s desire to downgrade its relationship with Islamabad.
The US aid to Pakistan “has been very extensive over the course of the last several years and Secretary of State John Kerry, when he was in the Senate, was a very big advocate” of this assistance, Ms Psaki said.
“Absolutely not,” said the US official when asked if a reduction in US aid requests to Congress for Pakistan indicated the desire to lower its relationship with the country.
She confirmed media reports that Secretary Kerry might soon visit Pakistan, possibly on July 28, but did not announce a date. “The secretary is looking forward to visiting Pakistan. He would like to be able to spend some time on the ground,” Ms Psaki said.
“He recognises the important relationship we have with Pakistan. As you know, he also has spoken…[to] the prime minister several times, actually, since he was elected. And I think that further confirms the importance of the relationship.”
Responding to another question, she said “we’re eager to go” to Pakistan.
Asked if Pakistan had protested against a July 2 drone strike that killed 17 people in Fata, Ms Psaki said: “We have an ongoing dialogue, of course, with the government of Pakistan. I don’t have any specific calls or readouts of that sort to tell you about.”
Asked to comment on a recent statement by the Afghan army chief that Pakistan controlled the Taliban and if it wants it can end the war within a week, the State Department official said she will have to take a closer look at the statement “and figure out and talk with our team about where we are”.
Meanwhile, other US officials said that there was no real reduction in US aid requests for Pakistan for 2014. They pointed out that the aid requests met the $1.5 billion annual target specified in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill.
They noted that Washington’s highest priority in the new fiscal year was supporting power generation projects in Pakistan.