Cablegate: Codel Kerry's Meeting with Pm Gilani
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Friday, 19 February 2010, 10:50
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 000399
EO 12958 DECL: 02/17/2020
TAGS EAID, ECON, EFIN, PGOV, PREL, PK
SUBJECT: CODEL KERRY’S MEETING WITH PM GILANI
Classified By: Ambassador Anne W. Patterson for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) .
1. (C) Summary: On February 16 Senator John Kerry met with Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani and spoke about the state of Indo-Pakistani relations. Gilani said that Pakistan was willing to resume talks with India but indicated that in order to gain Pakistan’s trust India would need to decrease its footprint in Afghanistan and stop interfering in Balochistan. Kerry said that the upcoming talks between India and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretaries had the potential to reshape the bilateral relationship and the overall regional dynamic and encouraged the GOP not to allow outside pressures to “derail these efforts.” Kerry suggested enlisting international assistance to mediate these dialogues and indicated that the U.S. would be willing to help facilitate this process.
2. (C)Gilani said that Pakistan was committed to fighting extremism but complained that a lack of funding and the continued presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan was impeding these efforts. He added that there was an immediate need to improve social services in the conflict-affected areas. Kerry said that Pakistan needed to fight extremism through military interventions and by providing the Pakistani people with economic opportunities; he suggested that the U.S. and Pakistan conclude a free trade agreement. Kerry emphasized that the FTA could only work if the GOP leadership was willing to “back the USG” when it was being attacked by the media and local politicians. Finally, Gilani asked Kerry to consider releasing Dr. Aafia Siddiqui on humanitarian grounds. Kerry agreed to discuss the matter in Washington. End Summary.
Building Bridges-Relations with India
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2.(C) During a February 16 meeting with Senator John Kerry, Prime Minister Gilani spoke at length about the state of the Indo-Pakistani relationship. Gilani indicated that the GOP was willing to resume talks with the Indian government, and pointed to the upcoming meetings between India and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretaries as evidence of such. He added that the GOP and India had also resumed back channel discussions. Gilani said that improving bilateral relations with India was in Pakistan’s best interest as it would enable the GOP to focus all of its attention on securing its western border. Gilani, however, noted that in order to gain public support for this process, the U.S. had to “treat India and Pakistan equally.” He added that India would need to gain Pakistan’s trust and indicated that reducing the Indian footprint in Afghanistan and halting Indian support of militants in Balochistan would be steps in the right direction.
3.(C) Kerry said that the upcoming meeting between the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Secretaries had “enormous potential.” He urged the GOP not to allow pressure from the local media and the masses to “derail these efforts.” Kerry argued that dialogue with India was an opportunity to “create new security arrangements that could change the regional dynamic.” While assuring Gilani that the effort would not be U.S.-driven, Kerry indicated that the USG was open to the idea of serving as a mediator to help facilitate the resumption of the Pakistan-India Composite Dialogue.
4. (C) Kerry said that in light of the recent bombing in Pune, India’s politicians were focused on counterterrorism. He suggested that the GOP present the Indian government with its plan to tackle terrorism. He said that this would be a clear “confidence builder” that would make India more willing to move forward in talks about Kashmir and water disputes. He emphasized that India, Pakistan and the United States’ futures depended on their governments’ willingness to “challenge old suspicions” and work together, and suggested that Pakistan and India sign a non-aggression pact. Kerry said that the U.S. and other countries of goodwill would be prepared to help in any way possible.
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5. (C) Gilani agreed to present Kerry,s proposal to the the GOP leadership. He was amenable to the idea of a rapprochement in the India-Pakistan relation, but expressed concern that the public would not support the idea. Kerry said that in order to gain public support for this initiative, the GOP needed to clearly outline the long-term economic benefits of improved bilateral relations, such as improvements in social development and increased investments and trade, to the Pakistani people.
Fighting Extremism and the Need for Coalition Support Funds
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6. (C) Gilani said that Pakistan was committed to fighting extremism and pointed to the recent success of the military operations in Swat, Malakand and Waziristan as evidence of such. Kerry said that the USG had a great respect and deep understanding of the difficulties involved in waging this war. He praised the GOP for the military’s efforts, acknowledged the difference that it was making, and thanked Gilani for the sacrifices that Pakistani troops were making every day.
7. (C) Gilani complained that the large number of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan were destabilizing the western provinces and contributing to extremism. Gilani suggested that the construction of new refugee camps in Afghanistan would dramatically improve Pakistan’s security situation by halting the more than 45,000 Afghans who move across the Afghanistan/Pakistan border each day.
8. (C) Gilani also explained that capacity building for law enforcement agencies, the military and the police was an essential part of continuing the fight against extremism. He said the GOP had recently provided $8 million to support capacity building initiatives for the Frontier Corps and law enforcement in NWFP. Gilani expressed frustration at the GOP’s inability to provide more money to support this activity due to budgetary constraints. He attributed these constraints to the delayed disbursement of Coalition Support Funds (CSF), and the fact that recent pledges from the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) member countries had yet to materialize. Gilani urged the USG to disburse CSF funds as soon as possible.
Need to Rebuild Conflict-affected Areas
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9. (C) Gilani explained that the USG and GOP needed to devise an exit strategy to ensure that militants did not fill the vacuum when the military withdrew from the western border. He emphasized that it was imperative that this strategy focus on civilian assistance. Senator Kerry agreed that there was a need to expedite development efforts in these war torn areas so that efforts made by the military were not lost. Gilani said that the GOP had recently conducted a damage needs assessment in Malakand and Swat and found that there was a desperate need to improve the delivery of social services and the energy sector. He suggested that the USG should help build more modern hospitals and more educational institutions in Swat and Malakand.
Trade Not Aid
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10. (C) Kerry argued that there needed to be a two-pronged approach to tackling extremism in Pakistan: military interventions needed to be coupled with economic development. Gilani agreed and said the USG needed to fast track Reconstruction Opportunity Zone (ROZ) legislation, as this would provide much needed relief for the local populations. Highlighting the fact that a Free Trade Agreement would help jump start the overall economy, Kerry suggested that Pakistan and the U.S. sign an FTA instead of pursuing the ROZ initiative. However, he emphasized that in order for the FTA to succeed the GOP needed to openly “back the USG” and
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counter inflammatory comments in the media and by some local politicians. Gilani supported the FTA idea wholeheartedly and said that, in the long run, Pakistan would benefit more from an FTA than from aid.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
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11. (C) Gilani asked the USG to consider repatriating Dr. Aafia Siddiqui on humanitarian grounds. He said that this was a very contentious issue in Pakistan, adding that by returning Dr. Sadiqqui “the U.S. would be in the Pakistani people’s good graces.” Both Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik assured Kerry that the GOP would honor the terms of Dr. Siddiqui,s jail sentence, and suggested that she complete her jail time under house arrest. Kerry agreed to look into the prisoner transfer issue.
12. (C) This cable was drafted after CODEL Kerry departed. PATTERSON