Politics

Pakistan Expresses Reservations on U.S. Aid Conditions

Ahead of an international donors conference scheduled on Friday, sharp differences of opinion have emerged between the United States and Pakistan on the nature of and conditions attached to expected U.S. aid.

Washington is due to host the next meeting among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan May 5-7. Prior to that is this week's conference for "Friends of Democratic Pakistan," co-chaired by Japan and The World Bank.

Pakistan's Ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani told FOX News his country's reservations concerning conditions on U.S. aid revolve around the appearance it sends about Pakistan kowtowing to the U.S.

"It is not prudent to put conditions on assistance to Pakistan in an aid bill because it gives the wrong signal to the Pakistani people and at the same time limits the options of the executive branch of the U.S. government in the conduct of foreign policy," he said.

The Obama administration has placed greater emphasis on resources for social and economic development rather than on bolstering Pakistan's army. Haqqani praised this new approach but said that he hoped military aid would not be compromised as a result.

"It would be much better to enhance development assistance without reducing security cooperation," he said, adding that to combat extremism, investment in basic public services was key.

"We also need significant investment in our country's decaying infrastructure and for the education and health care of our people to ensure that extremists ideologies no longer carry any appeal for our masses," Haqqani said.

Next month's meeting in Washington had been planned as a gathering of foreign ministers but due to the differences that have emerged some Afghan and Pakistani diplomats have said it could be raised to a top-level summit of the nation's leaders. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told FOX News "there is no truth to this" possibility.

U.S. officials say Pakistan needs to crack down on militant groups in its northwestern tribal regions near the Afghan border and do more to stop cross-border militant attacks. U.S. officials have also expressed concern about Pakistan's intelligence services, which have in the past have coordinated with Islamist militant groups operating in Afghanistan and the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistan has denied allegations that its intelligence services are continuing that support. The government in Islamabad also has publicly objected to missile strikes by U.S. drones on militant targets in Pakistan, saying the attacks undermine the country's sovereignty and outrages the Pakistani people.

The region's special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Joint Chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen met with Pakistan's leadership last week and their discussions brought the mutual sense of mistrust and growing Pakistani resentment about the aid conditions to light.

In public statements, both sides pledged to address the trust issue, particularly in terms of military cooperation but questions remain about conditions on aid.

House and Senate bills are also pending on broad U.S. military and economic aid. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has backed legislation that would triple U.S. non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year over five years.

The measure would require Pakistan to show evidence of progress in fighting terrorism and militancy. In Islamabad on Monday, Kerry met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari.

The prime minister's office said Gilani warned Kerry that "aid with strings attached would fail to generate the desired goodwill and results in Pakistan."

At a joint press conference Monday with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Kerry distinguished between "conditionalities" attached to the bill and measurements to ensure implementation of the assistance. In an apparent attempt to downplay the prime minister's earlier comments, Qureshi said "nothing is firm yet."

However, State Department spokesman Robert Wood, responding to the comments, said Tuesday that a definitive means of monitoring aid would have to be reached.

"I think you would expect when the U.S. taxpayer is providing money, assistance to a country, that we want to make sure that we're not only getting our money's worth but that certain things that we care about we want to see that they be dealt with. And so we have said we will provide and would like to provide $1.5 billion over a five-year period to Pakistan. But clearly, we are going to establish benchmarks. We want to see certain standards and goals met."

The first meeting of the " Friends of Democratic Pakistan " was at the U.N. General Assembly in September 2008, in part as a show of international support for Zardari, who had recently taken the place of his assassinated wife, Benazir Bhutto. It was also a recognition that a more stable Pakistan was of international interest.

Haqqani described the Tokyo meeting a welcome continuation of those ideals and practical support "at a time when Pakistan faces major challenges from extremists and terrorists."