Biden due to discuss Pak-US strategic relationship on Wednesday

ISLAMABAD: US Vice President Joe Biden will arrive here on Wednesday to meet top Pakistani leadership and discuss Pak-US strategic relationship, review progress in the war against terror and challenges facing Pakistan’s economy.Biden will meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvaiz Kayani.According to US administration officials, Biden is likely to present an economic, military and intelligence package for Pakistan, to help it effectively counter extremism and terrorism by addressing its immediate needs.The US Vice President will extend support to Pakistan to help strengthen its economy, improve governance and security, and respond to its development needs.Pakistani leadership is likely to apprise the US Vice President of their concerns in addressing the grave economic issues that have come to the fore due to diversion of national resources in fighting terrorism and extremism, an official source told APP.Early disbursement of annual US 1.5 billion dollar financial assistance also figures the talks.Biden in his meetings with President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani will review the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue aimed at improving mutual trust and promote stability of Pakistan.

Pakistan has been seeking assistance from the United States for its socio-economic sector, with particular focus on development of communication links, health, education and creation of employment opportunities for its youth, in a bid to sway away those living on the fringes of extremism.The assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and the counter terrorism measures taken by country’s law enforcement agencies would also be discussed.Biden has been keeping in touch with the Pakistani leadership frequently. He last telephoned Prime Minister Gilani in September to assure the US government’s full support to Pakistan in the aftermath of the worst ever floods.The leaders will also discuss the Afghanistan and Pakistan annual review concluded recently. There is a growing understanding in the United States that Pakistan needs more economic assistance to address the deep rooted problems related to militancy and extremism, fermenting due to lack of economic activity and opportunities.He will also discuss ways to strengthen dialogue with Pakistan and Afghanistan for greater regional stability. The US is also planning to host another session of the US-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers dialogue .Biden’s visit becomes more significant as it follows the visit of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of Afghan High Council for Peace, who met Pakistani leaders to discuss a future course of Afghanistan.The US Vice President is already in Afghanistan to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai and get an update on the situation, ahead of the announced July pull out.A White House statement said the visit was to assess progress toward transition to Afghan-led security beginning this year, and to demonstrate the US commitment to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan – APP