Pakistan, US Defense Consultative Group meets today in Washington

Prime Minister Nawaz SharifAs part of the Strategic Dialogue, Pakistan-U.S. Defense Consultative Group meets here Thursday with improved mutual understanding on cooperative efforts for Afghan peace and resolve to sustain defense partnership beyond 2014.

The annual DCG meeting takes place from November 21-22 in a changing regional scenario as Pakistan and the United States have vastly improved their high-stakes strategic relationship from a low point in 2011, and both countries are committed to cooperative efforts for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan in the 2014 transition year. There is understanding on both sides, both have understood each other’s perspective, not only in the war on terror but other regional and global issues from the security point of view, Defense Secretary Lt.

Gen. (retd) Asif Yasin Malik, who is heading the Pakistani delegation to the 22nd DCG meeting in Washington, told APP in an interview. Islamabad has reaffirmed a strong commitment to see a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan on its western border. At the same time, Pakistan believes Washington is now more receptive to Pakistan’s concerns vis-Ã. vis Afghanistan as both have developed understanding of each others perspectives. Pakistan is looking at close defense relations beyond 2014,the Defense Secretary said in reference to the emphasis that the decades-old Pakistan-U.S. relationship is vital because of its own bilateral importance and is not merely confined to cooperation on Afghanistan. We are looking at sustainedrelationship beyond 2014.

The Afghan security transition with drawdown of U.S. and coalition troops next year, coupled with the presidential election has wide-ranging implications for Pakistan. We are very clear that we want a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan, and a peaceful Afghanistan augurs well for our areas adjoining Afghanistan, tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Asif Malik said, reiterating Islamabad’s commitment to a peaceful Afghanistan. Top U.S. officials have been acknowledging Pakistan’s key support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process and for a smooth retrograde process of U.S. and coalition equipment from its landlocked neighbor through its Ground Lines of Communication. Additionally, Pakistan’s over 150,000 troops deployed along the Afghan border have been a tremendous support in enforcing security along Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The two delegations will discuss future opportunities for building Defense cooperation as agreed during Prime Minister’s visit to Washington last month and mentioned in the joint statement issued after the prime minister’s meeting with President Barack Obama. Defense Consultative Group (DCG) is a regular dialogue mechanism between defense communities of Pakistan and the United States. It is also one of the five working groups within the framework of Pakistan-US strategic dialogue. Since its arrival the delegation has already engaged with a wide spectrum of policy community including U.S.

Congressional leaders, senior officials at the Department of Defense, State Department and think tanks in the U.S. capital. During these interactions, the Defense Secretary Asif Yasin underscored that shared interests and mutual desirability of a strong partnership has enabled Pakistan and the US to build a strong momentum in bilateral defense cooperation. Both sides are also engaged in shaping contours of an enduring defense partnership for the long term, he said. According to the Joint Statement issued after Prime Minister’s meeting with President Barack Obama last month both leaders agreed that bilateral defense partnership should continue to grow and endure.

In the DCG meeting this week, Pakistan’s Defense Secretary is scheduled to meet top leadership of Pentagon. During the dialogue both sides are expected to review the recent progress made in defense cooperation and discuss future opportunities in strengthening their long-standing partnership. Thedelegations will share their security assessments of the region and will have strategic consultations on the path forward. -App