The United States will support Pakistan's efforts to reduce tensions and reconcile with India as well as for closer economic integration with the nations of South and Central Asia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.
"We have a unique opportunity to foster the lasting security of a troubled region, a region that is of vital interest to our nation," she said accepting the first honorary doctorate conferred by the US Air Force in a ceremony in her home state of Alabama on Monday.
From "partnerships with the newly democratic Pakistan and a free Afghanistan that is fighting the Taliban, not governed by it, to our growing strategic partnership with India," the US is in a dramatically different and better position in this region than it was after Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she said.
Providing an assessment of US diplomatic and military operations in the region, Rice said a new strategic opportunity comes from the transition to democracy that is underway in Pakistan, a nation that, like Afghanistan, America had neglected too long.
"Pakistan has been an ally in the war on terror since September 11th and yes, this has necessitated a strong programme of military assistance and cooperation. After 2001, we supported President (Pervez) Musharraf's efforts to chart a moderate, modern path for that nation," she said.
"Our engagement, however, has always been multidimensional." Rice noted America has invested $300 million each year to help the Pakistani people by supporting health programmes, educational reform, as well as the building of civil society.
As successful American engagement with a democratic Pakistan is vital to its national security and to the lasting success of South and Central Asia, she said: "We will greatly expand our support for the efforts of Pakistani civilians to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law".
The US will also support Pakistan's efforts to develop fruitful links with its neighbours and with the community of responsible nations.
"This includes intensified Pakistani-Afghan dialogue on regional security, continued efforts to reduce tensions and reconcile with India, and closer economic integration with the nations of South and Central Asia," Rice said.
Noting that the Pakistani people have made a transition, the top US diplomat said: "There is a broad-based Pakistani government which we intend to engage, as the government of Pakistan, as we would engage any other democratic government".
At the same time, Washington "will engage the armed forces in military training and in military cooperation in the way that we do (with) militaries around the world, many of them from democratic countries".
Pakistan now will also need to find a way to have very solid civilian control of the armed forces, she said. "So we will engage across a broad front... I believe that the coming of a democratic government in Pakistan is a new strategic opportunity. It is an opportunity for an ally in the war on terror."