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ISLAMABAD, US has let it down

Pakistan feels US has let it downISLAMABAD: In the run-up to the third round of strategic dialogue, Pakistani authorities are getting irritated over the lack of US interest in resolving the country’s long-term regional issues and in providing economic support despite publicly declaring it a key ally in the war on terror and appreciating its sacrifices.

The authorities are also dissatisfied with the ‘triple accounting’ by the United States of its economic assistance to Pakistan, although the overall assistance remained less than $1.5 billion in a year. They also grumble that Pakistan has not been given market access for its products they believe it deserves in comparison to other countries.

“Since our engagement with US after 9/11 about more than nine years ago, the United States has made wide-ranging trading arrangements with Latin American countries, African nations and even some states in the Middle East but greater market access to Pakistan still remains far off,” said a government official.

Officials said that these were some of the issues Pakistani delegation led by Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani would raise again with the US authorities as part of the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue to be held in Washington next week.

“The US actions and assurances do not match when it comes to Pakistan’s role and returns it should get,” the official said.

In background discussions, the official said the US leadership never missed an opportunity to assure Islamabad how central they considered a stable Pakistan to achieve global and regional peace and yet they looked the other way when the government discussed US role in resolving a ‘proxy water war launched by India’ besides the longstanding Kashmir issue that was the key to regional stability.

They said India had launched a full-scale water aggression against Pakistan by initiating a number of controversial projects on rivers allocated to Pakistan under the 1960 waters treaty.

Pakistan wanted the US to play its role in addressing its concerns, they said.

They said these irritants had repeatedly been discussed with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s special envoy Richard Holbrooke but without any tangible progress beyond diplomatic pleasantries. They, however, agree that the US has moved in appreciating Pakistan’s concerns relating to the Afghan situation.

Sources said the United States had committed to provide $7.5 billion assistance in five years to Islamabad under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act at the rate of $1.5 billion in a year.

As part of Friends of Democratic Pakistan, the United States had assured last year to help Pakistan overcome its economic problems by offering more assistance but “when we got back to the US authorities for follow up, we realised that its pledges at FoDP were part of its earlier commitments made under the KLB Act”.

The flood-related US support, the sources said, also came under the KLB amount of $1.5 billion a year.

Talking about trade facilitation, the official said that Pakistan had also not been able to materialise Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in areas affected by war and earthquake for which the US had given assurances many years ago. “We now believe that ROZs have lost their opportunity cost.”

He said the even the European Union had been favourable in extending market access to Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake but the US did not make any progress on that account.

Between 2000 and 2009, the US trade with Latin America increased by more than 80 per cent because of North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement and bilateral FTAs with Chile while its trade with African nations increased by about 30 per cent under the 2000 African Growth and Opportunity Act, but Pakistan’s ROZs and bilateral investment treaty remained a pipedream.

They said the US cooperation with Pakistan for resolving the energy sector problems had also remained limited to lip-service. Rather it opposed the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline that was key to Islamabad’s energy sector needs over the next couple of decades.

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