WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan has given a wish list to Washington ahead of high-level meetings, asking for pilotless drones and helicopters as well as talks on nuclear cooperation, said U.S. and Pakistani officials on Tuesday.
The 56-page document, set to be discussed in talks in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, also gives other priorities such as water and energy requirements for energy-starved Pakistan as it struggles with power cuts.
Speaking after talks with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his country’s civilian government and the military had a “very clear plan” for what needed to be done.
“We articulated that collectively, you know, what the Pakistani priorities are,” said Qureshi, who met Senator John Kerry, one of the authors of landmark legislation last year for a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan.
U.S. officials said the Pentagon was reviewing the 56-page document outlining Islamabad’s needs, many of which have been voiced before, but the main goal of the “strategic dialogue” was to improve ties rather than deliver on a list of items.
Pakistan is a key ally in the U.S. fight to topple al Qaeda and to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan where the United States is sending in an additional 30,000 troops to fight the Taliban.
“We want to take our relationship to a deeper level,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with Pakistan’s Dunya TV.
“We have a long way to go. We can’t just wave that magic wand and say we’ve eliminated the trust deficit,” she added.
Qureshi also said the goal of the talks, which he is co-chairing with Clinton, was to develop a “partnership”.
“The dialogue that I am going to lead tomorrow is very important to bring about a qualitative difference in our relationship,” said Qureshi.”
Pakistan has been pressing the United States for a civilian nuclear arrangement with Washington, much like India has, a request that has consistently been rebuffed because of a fear of angering New Delhi, an arch-rival of Islamabad.
Asked about the civilian nuclear request, Clinton appeared lukewarm over its prospects, saying the arrangement with India was the result of “many, many years of strategic dialogue” and that the U.S. plan was to address more urgent energy needs.
“It did not happen easily or quickly. And I think on the energy issue specifically, there are more immediate steps that can be taken that have to help with the grid, have to help with other sources of energy, to upgrade power plants,” she told Pakistan’s Express TV.
A U.S. official pointed out that discussions on a nuclear deal would also require consensus approval from the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as well as U.S. congressional approval, which had been a lengthy process with the Indians.
Kerry, when asked about it, said he did not believe nuclear cooperation was on the table now.
Asked if there was concern over India’s reaction, he said: “Sure, I’m concerned about all the balance of those relationships. But as I said, it’s really premature.”
Another area Pakistan wants to cover in the talks this week is India’s growing role in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said Islamabad wanted to be certain its own security concerns were addressed in the region.
Washington has beefed up its military aid for Pakistan, and the Pentagon announced in January plans to supply 12 unarmed “Shadow” drones to boost Pakistan’s surveillance operations.
The latest request is believed to repeat Pakistani pleas for “shoot-and-kill” drones being used by the United States to target militants, closely held technology that Washington is reluctant to share.
Earlier this year, Washington also approved the delivery of 18 F-16 fighter jets and a thousand laser-guided bomb kits, a U.S. defense official said.
The Pentagon played down the chance of any big announcement of fresh aid at the end of the talks this week, which also include Army General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, saying the dialogue focused on the bolstering long-term bilateral ties.
“I would not look to this, at the end of it, for there to be some great announcement about any hard items that are being produced as a result of the conversations,” Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters.
U.S. and Pakistani officials said there would likely be greater details given of security help for Pakistan, with timetables on when funds and equipment would be delivered, as well as specifics on water, agriculture and energy projects.
Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Cynthia Osterman