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US offers Pakistan $2 billion in military aid: Clinton

clinton qureshiWASHINGTON: The United States on Friday pledged two billion dollars in military aid to Pakistan and hailed its efforts to battle extremists, seeking to bolster an uneasy alliance with the frontline nation.

The military package, keenly sought by Pakistan’s leaders, marks the latest twist in the two nations’ crisis-prone relationship but risks causing unease in India just two weeks before a visit to New Delhi by President Barack Obama.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration would ask Congress to approve two billion dollars in military aid from 2012 to 2016 as part of the United States’ “enduring commitment to help Pakistan plan for its defense needs.”

“The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counter-terrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan,” Clinton said at high-level, three-day talks between the two nations.

The military package would be in addition to 7.5 billion dollars which Congress last year committed over five years in civilian aid, including building schools and roads, in a bid to dent the allure of extremists.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is accompanied by the army chief to the strategic dialogue in Washington, denounced criticism of his country’s efforts against extremism.

“There are still tongue-in-cheek comments, even in this capital, about Pakistan’s heart not really being in this fight. I do not know what greater evidence to offer than the blood of our people,” Qureshi said, sitting next to Clinton.

“We are determined to win this fight,” Qureshi said.

Clinton said that Americans “recognize and appreciate the sacrifice and service” of Pakistan’s military.

“These groups threaten the security first and foremost of the people of Pakistan, of neighbors, of the United States and indeed the world,” Clinton said.

But a White House report to Congress this month faulted Pakistan for not working against Afghanistan’s Taliban, in what experts say is an attempt by Islamabad to preserve influence in its neighbor if and when US troops leave.

Obama plans to pay his first presidential visit to India next month in an effort to show his personal commitment to broadening the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies.

Indian commentators have worried about Obama’s early focus on Pakistan and China —concerns unlikely to be allayed by the military package.—AFP

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