Senior officials from Pakistan and United States will hold a “strategic dialogue” Monday in Washington to discuss a host of bilateral issues, ranging from economic cooperation to counterterrorism operations, according to media reports. The talks, which will be attended by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, would be the third such annual meeting since the Nawaz Sharif-led government came to power in Pakistan in 2013.
“Some of the issues won’t surprise anyone. It’s about strengthening security and stability in the region, about increasing trade, looking at the many different problems and threats in the region, including terrorism that we’ve talked a lot about,” U.S. State Department Mark Toner said in a statement released Friday.
According to reports, the strategic dialogue would focus on enhancing cooperation in the energy, education, science and technology sectors, as well as on bolstering joint counterterrorism efforts.
“[The talks will] afford an important opportunity to take stock of the entire gamut of Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the U.S.,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry reportedly said in a statement released last week.
The Sunni militant group Taliban, which has a history of targeting Shiites and other civilians, is still believed to have a significant presence in parts of the country’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and North Waziristan region. The Pakistani military is currently carrying out a massive armed offensive against the group and is believed to have killed over 3,500 militants over the past 19 months.
In order to assist Islamabad in its counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, the U.S. government recently confirmed its intentions to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, despite strong opposition from the Indian government and U.S. Congress.
“We are disappointed at the decision of the Obama Administration to notify the sale of F-16 aircrafts to Pakistan. We disagree with their rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism,” Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s ministry of external affairs, said in a statement. “The record of the last many years in this regard speaks for itself.”
U.S. officials, however, have strongly defended the decision, arguing that these fighter jets are a “critical” part of Pakistan’s fight against terrorists.