Cablegate: Boucher's Meeting with Foreign Minister Qureshi
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 001497
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/08/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PK
SUBJECT: BOUCHER'S MEETING WITH FOREIGN MINISTER QURESHI
Classified By: Ambassador Anne W. Patterson for reaons 1.4 (B), (D).
1. (C) During a March 28 meeting with Assistant Secretary or South and Central Asian Affairs Boucher, Foreign Minister-designate Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that the new government wanted to work with the U.S. to combat extremism, increase trade and extend cooperation with India and Afghanistan. However, Qureshi cautioned that the need to work with Nawaz Sharif, who has more strident views than the leaders of the Pakistan People's Party, may alter the public stance of the new government. Boucher briefed on the status of U.S. efforts to assist Pakistan in the tribal areas and with regional allies. Qureshi commented that he had led farmers' delegations to India several times and supported efforts to increase confidence-building measures to improve relations. End Summary.
2. (C) Assistant Secretary Boucher, Charge and Polcouns met March 28 with then Foreign Minister-designate Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the Pakistan People's Party.
3. (C) Boucher opened the meeting by saying that the U.S. wants to be a strong partner to assist Pakistan in its transition to democracy, both on counter-terrorism cooperation and economic assistance. Pakistan faced too many challenges to look backward; we must move forward and find a way to get along and solve problems. Qureshi agreed, thanking the U.S. for its efforts to support a free and fair election and to convince President Musharraf to retire from the Army. "You are totally in line with us."
4. (C) Qureshi noted that the Pakistani people had rejected the extremists and said Pakistan understood the need for stability, continuity, peace and partnership with the West. But within the coalition, there are two important players on the extremism issue. One is Awami National Party leader Asfundyar Wali Khan, who is liberal and "thinks like us" but is a Pashtun who looks at things differently. The other is Nawaz Sharif, who sounds more aggressive and belligerent than the People,s Party, especially on the issue of Musharraf's future. Sharif, said Qureshi, feels he is more in line with the popular mood. The People,s Party view, asserted Qureshi, is that foreign policy should be based on strategic interests, not populism. The question was how to work with Nawaz. "Our direction may be the same, but our tone may be different. We will have to be sensitive to public opinion."
5. (C) Qureshi confirmed that the new government would look to the Awami National Party to begin a dialogue, not with terrorists themselves, but with their support networks in the tribal and the settled areas. A debate in parliament, he claimed, would help build support for the new government to combat militancy. Boucher urged him to avoid demagoguery and support an integrated solution; the U.S. would continue to assist in this regard.
6. (C) Noting that there is a growing interest in Washington to support the newly elected government, Boucher said there was an opportunity to forge a comprehensive effort against extremism. We recognized that this effort could not just be military -- although an element of force was necessary -- but required economic assistance and improvements in the rule of law. The current U.S. military program was based on a commitment from President Bush that expired in Fiscal Year 2009; we needed to sit down and plan together how to move forward on an agreed strategy for military and other assistance for the future. This could include work on building institutions in the police and judiciary as well as working on economic reform, extending security upgrades for the Frontier Corps, and cooperating on energy initiatives.
7. (C) The Pakistanis, said Qureshi, recognize the U.S. has provided some humanitarian assistance, but they are not sold on cooperating with the U.S. on the war on terror. "It is our war, but we could not fight it effectively without a political mandate; the new government now has that mandate." Boucher said that the U.S. would fit our support into the Pakistani's program.
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8. (C) Boucher noted that the world was paying more attention to Pakistan, for example, the Group of Eight, the EU, NATO, the Germans, and the French. They do not know how to get involved and were unused to working under the difficult security conditions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas; they needed direction from the new government on how to help. Boucher said he had been advising the Saudis and other Gulf states that they needed to position themselves as supporting the new government instead of backing any particular political party or promoting Talibanization. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan needed Gulf assistance to fight the insurgents.
8. (C) Qureshi agreed on the need for more collective efforts; Boucher suggested that it might be possible to form a "Friends of Pakistan" group that would meet on a regular basis. He explained that the U.S. and Pakistan met regularly through our Strategic Dialogue, led by the Deputy Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. We were looking to do the next session in Washington in the next few months. Trilateral military cooperation with Afghanistan was going well, noted Boucher, but we were disappointed there had been less progress on the economic side and hoped we could increase transit trade.
9. (C) Boucher said the U.S. had worked on the Indian government as much as we could regarding increased trade because we saw the possibilities of a Central Asia-Pakistan-India trade route. The U.S. had opened a new bridge between Afghanistan and Tajikistan last year; within a year or so, it would be possible to travel from Almaty to Karachi; this presented Pakistan with enormous opportunities. The U.S. concern, cautioned Boucher, was that Pakistan was losing out to Iran; increasingly Central Asian trade was going to Bandar Abbas.
10. (C) The U.S. was pleased at Pakistani Government support for President Karzai, said Boucher, and the border is now seen as a shared responsibility. On March 29, the first Border Coordination Center would open at Torkham; it enabled U.S., Pakistani, and Afghan soldiers to see real-time intelligence on incidents that occurred along the border. A second Center was planned for the Afghan side of the border, and we hoped a third could be placed in Pakistan. The Charge noted that he regularly briefed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the last government on cross-border incidents; Qureshi welcomed the opportunity to continue these briefings.
11. (C) Noting he had been in India when People,s Party Co-Chair Zardari had issued a statement urging increased transit trade with India irrespective of progress on Kashmir, Boucher asked for Qureshi's views on bilateral relations. Qureshi said there was a large constituency on both sides of the border that believe in moving forward, but they were not particularly vocal. He personally had been to India two to three times leading a delegation of farmers from Punjab to the Indian Punjab. The answer to improved relations, said Qureshi, lay in increased confidence-building measures, People-to-people contacts and increased trade. He noted that since the rumors of his appointment, he had been getting calls from his Indian friends. We must respect the concerns of the Kashmiris, said Qureshi, but we cannot be held "hostage" to one issue.
12. (C) Boucher said this was a positive sign and that both sides needed a nudge to make progress. In his meeting with the Foreign Secretary, the Deputy Secretary had been encouraged at the prospect of movement in resolving some bilateral issues. But there was concern in India that the political situation was not yet clear enough to move on a framework for Kashmir. Qureshi predicted that nothing would be possible for the next three months until the political environment matured.
13. (C) Finally, Boucher advised Qureshi that the U.S. Government was about to impose sanctions on individuals from several countries who had been involved in the AQ Khan network. Qureshi said he understood but asked for more time, saying this issue should not be the first one the new government had to confront vis--vis its relation with the
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14. (C) This message was cleared by Assistant Secretary Boucher.