Both presidents reaffirm close partnership between the United States, Pakistan
By Melody Merin
March 04, 2006
Musharraf said that he and President Bush had revived and strengthened the relationship between the two nations. "We have laid the foundations of a very strong, sustainable, broad-based and long-term relationship between Pakistan and United States," he said.
Both presidents praised Pakistan's commitment to fight terrorism, to resolve the Kashmir conflict with India, to revive its economy and to install a democratic government.
Bush specifically paid tribute to Pakistan's alliance with the United States in fighting terrorism. "Pakistan has lost brave citizens in this fight. We're grateful to all who have given their lives in this vital cause. We honor the Pakistanis who continue to risk their lives to confront the terrorists," he said.
Sharing good intelligence is key to locating and defeating al-Qaida terrorists, according to President Bush. He added that Pakistani's agreement to join the Container Security Initiative, a U.S. program intended to improve security at U.S. ports, helps to prevent the spread of dangerous materials and reduce the threat of terrorism.
Regarding the Pakistan-India conflict over the Kashmir region, Bush said that progress has been made in the last five or six years. He praised the leadership of President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and their efforts to quell the tension between both countries, and encouraged all involved parties to continue working to resolve this and other issues.
The U.S. and Pakistani leaders also discussed rebuilding Pakistan's economy in the wake of the October 2005 earthquake that devastated portions of the country. (See U.S. Response to the Earthquake in South Asia.)
"Part of the tangible evidence of our relationship is the half-a-billion-dollars commitment to help this country rebuild," said Bush. The U.S. president added that Samuel Bodman, U.S. secretary of energy, has been tapped to help evaluate and restore Pakistan's energy supply.
The U.S. president also pledged to work "on a bilateral investment treaty that will encourage foreign investment and more opportunity for the people of Pakistan." Specifically, he supported Musharraf's vision of a reconstruction opportunity zone in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan where products manufactured in those zones would be eligible for duty-free entry into the United States.
ADVANCING DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN
Advancing democracy in Pakistan was another subject highlighted by both Musharraf and Bush during the press conference.
According to Musharraf, "We have empowered the people of Pakistan now -- they were never empowered before -- by introducing a local government system where we have given the destiny of their areas for development, for welfare, for progress in their own hands through financial, political and administrative involvement." As examples, he cited recent steps to empower women and minorities, to expand press freedom, and to protect individuals; right to free speech.
President Bush reiterated the need for Pakistan to maintain an "open and honest" election and reaffirmed the commitment of the United to States to work with Pakistan "to lay the foundations of democracy."
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