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Pakistan, NATO to cement political ties

Pakistan and NATO will institutionalise a political dialogue and expand military cooperation to develop a relationship beyond the war on terror.
IANS | By HT Correspondent, Islamabad
UPDATED ON MAY 09, 2007 05:02 PM IST

Pakistan and the 26-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will institutionalise a political dialogue and expand military cooperation to develop a relationship beyond the war on terror.

"In the context of Afghanistan, both sides agree that nation-building, reconstruction and development rather than a military solution was the key to a durable peace and stability in that country," media reports on Wednesday.

This was the outcome of meetings that visiting NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer held with President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri in Islamabad on Tuesday.

"We are here to see if we can come to a more mature, more regular political dialogue between Pakistan and NATO," Scheffer said at a joint press conference with Aziz, adding that military-to-military contacts between them were moving well.

Questioned about the contours of the political dialogue given that NATO was a military alliance, Kasuri retorted: "Before you ask a military to do a job, you have to agree politically".

Scheffer agreed, and pointed out that NATO was a political-military alliance.

He, however, declined to comment on the call for political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

"NATO should not be involved directly or indirectly in the political process. NATO is not in Afghanistan because it would like to leave any form of political footprints in this region," Scheffer maintained.

At the same time, he could not lay down the roadmap for NATO's exit from Afghanistan.

"My expectation is that NATO forces will be there for the foreseeable future," Scheffer contended.

Warning that if Afghanistan again became a failed state like it was under the Taliban rule, the consequences of this would be felt not only in Pakistan and in the region but globally.

Scheffer also commended Turkey for bringing Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Musharraf together on the sidelines of a conference in Ankara.

"It is my sincere hope that on the basis of that summit the process will result in a follow-up that is in the interest of everybody," he said.

Kasuri appreciated NATO's offer of training programmes for Pakistan armed forces personnel at the organisation's schools in Germany and Italy.

Speaking about his discussions on Afghanistan, Kasuri said he had told the NATO chief that the onus for border control could not be placed on Pakistan alone.

He disclosed that the number of Pakistani troops deployed on the Afghan border had gone up to 90,000.

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