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A New Strategy for Enhanced Partnership With Pakistan

Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
June 25, 2008

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ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Well, I’m very pleased to be here today and thank you for hosting this important hearing. I’m glad to be here with colleagues from the Department of Defense and the Agency for International Development. The three of us sit together just about every day to talk about Pakistan in one shape – one form of meeting or another, so hopefully you’ll find us in harmony or at least interesting.

Before I go into the substance, I want to pay special tribute to you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, and other members of the Committee who’ve really paid sustained and, I think, important attention and leadership on the subject of Pakistan. You’ve all traveled out there. Some of you were out there to help ensure that the election was a good election. Some of you have been there more than several times. And I think it’s a very, very important factor for all of us that we have a -- cooperation between the legislative and the executive branch and between the different parties in showing the broad United States support for Pakistan and the that goals that we have are shared goals that are endorsed by the Congress and the American people.

You all certainly know why Pakistan is important to the United States and how important it is. Pakistan is the second most populous Muslim nation in the world. It’s in the front lines of the fight against extremism and terrorism. It’s located in a very strategically important region with new strategic opportunities and important neighbors like Afghanistan, India, Iran and China. The safety and security of the United States is inextricably linked to the success of the security and the stability of a democratic Pakistan.

On February 18th, of this year, the Pakistani people went to the polls and elected moderate leaders who set a path for Pakistan into the future. We want to see this new government succeed because it represents the desires of the Pakistani people and because we believe that a moderate government with a democratic mandate is the most effective partner in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

Successful elections earlier this year were an important moment for Pakistan and its democratic development. But a number of very difficult challenges remain for the new civilian government, from facing down extremism to stimulating economic growth and dealing with energy and food shortages. Our support in these efforts is critical to the success and stability of Pakistan as a nation, and therefore we will continue to pursue a long-term comprehensive partnership with Pakistan that seeks to address their most important needs and strengthens our relationship as democratic allies and partners.

The new government is at the core of our strategy for working with Pakistan. We want to help the new leaders modernize the nation in all its aspects -- modernize its democratic institutions, modernize an economy to provide jobs to the citizens, modernize the education system, modernize the security services so that they can effectively fight terrorists, and bring the arrangements for the tribal areas of Pakistan up to date so that the writ of government prevails throughout the nation. With the new Pakistani Government, we’re already working to do these things that we hope can strengthen democratic and civilian institutions, promote good governance, enhance counterterrorism cooperation, so that we can all work to eliminate the social and economic conditions that allow extremism to flourish.

I would note, sir, there’s a statement coming out today that we understand is coming out from the Prime Minister’s office in Pakistan that involves the – all the political and military and appointed leaders of Pakistan who are dealing with a crisis in the tribal areas, that brings them together on a common approach against terrorism, states the principles under which they intend to operate. And we see this as a very important development. It brings together all the proper players. It states a very clear, multi-pronged approach. It states very clearly the goals of ending the violent extremism, ending the cross-border activity, and expelling the foreign fighters. And it states very clearly the goal of working with the tribes to develop and stabilize the area.

So I think that’s a very important development today, and we’ll look forward to working with them to implement that statement that’s coming out.

Over the past year, we in the U.S. Government have been developing a strategy intended to reinforce our existing commitment to the kind of long-term partnership that we are all talking about. This strategy addresses Pakistan’s needs in education, strengthen democratic institutions, economic growth and adequate healthcare. We’re pleased that Senator Biden is – you, sir, are proposing just such a commitment in new legislation. And we want to work with you on that legislation, even if we don’t agree with you on every point of the current version. But we welcome the initiative. We feel strongly that a new bipartisan commitment to partnership with Pakistan is crucial and we will continue to work in a bipartisan matter, as Senator Lugar said, as our Deputy Secretary Negroponte has pledged, work with you together to try to move forward.

A sustained and integrated commitment to developing Pakistan’s economy and social infrastructure cannot be separated from our key strategic objectives in the war on terror. There are a number of very important initiatives that we’re taking in this vein, and my colleagues and I would be happy to talk to you about them.

I would like to highlight just one, and that’s the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones. Certain goods produced in the border and earthquake affected areas of Pakistan and, indeed, in all of Afghanistan, would be eligible for duty-free treatment on entry into the United States. These zones can help counter extremism by stimulating sustainable development and providing alternatives to extremism and narcotics trafficking and other illicit activities. Reconstruction Opportunity Zone legislation is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives very shortly. And I hope that we will see your support for the Cantwell bill that’s already been introduced in the Senate.

Mr. Chairman, I’m going to be traveling to Pakistan next week to talk with the new government about how we can best face the challenges ahead together. My message will be simple and consistently delivered to political, military, and civilian society leaders and here’s what I’m going to say: The United States welcomes and supports the democratically elected Government of Pakistan. We believe firmly that now is the time for everyone to get past political maneuvering and focus on the issues that are important for the Pakistani people. We will work with you to support the modernization of Pakistan in all areas. We’ll work with you to support local leadership and oppose militants because terrorism is our common enemy. And we’ll work together to determine how we can best focus our assistance in areas that matter most to the people of Pakistan.

And I think when I convey that message, I can say that this is a basic message that’s understood by members of the Congress, members of the Senate, as well as the American people.

Looking ahead, for our commitment to Pakistan to be successful, it must be a long-term partnership and it must be based upon a bipartisan consensus. We hope that together the Congress and the Administration can establish a new framework for economic and security assistance, that can support Pakistan’s democracy, counter its terrorism threats and strengthen its development.

So thank you very much for the chance to appear today and be happy to take any questions you have.

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