Sharif said he was confident that Pakistan could work with the U.S. on those and other issues, expanding a relationship that’s “stood the test of time” despite “occasional hiccups.” He also said he welcomed American private investment in major projects to overhaul Pakistan’s energy and other sectors.
In no uncertain terms, however, Sharif touched on “a major irritant” in U.S.-Pakistani relations: “the matter of drone strikes, which have deeply disturbed and agitated our people.”
He said the U.S. strikes not only violated Pakistan’s territorial integrity but also were detrimental to his country’s own efforts to combat terrorism.
“I would therefore stress the need for an end to drone attacks,” Sharif said.
What Sharif really seeks, analysts said, is American help to develop Pakistan’s economy, which has lost an estimated $60 billion in growth, largely to an insurgency that’s cost 40,000 civilian and military lives.
To accomplish that, Sharif has centered his foreign policy on his country’s need to generate business and jobs, something that can happen only if Pakistan has peace and stability at home and in relations with its neighbors Afghanistan to the west and India, Pakistan’s foe, to the east.
Sharif has told his domestic audiences that the United States, the country’s largest trading partner and source of investment, is crucial to that happening.
Today, Sharif and Obama will formally announce the resumption of cooperation. The White House meeting also is likely to yield a document defining areas of common interest.
Details will include the release of $1.6 billion in military aid and compensation for Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations, and probably the reopening of two major logistical corridors through Pakistan into Afghanistan to facilitate the quickest and cheapest possible withdrawal of U.S. military hardware.
The White House also may announce financing for a $12 billion hydroelectric dam in northern Pakistan that’s key to mitigating the country’s chronic power shortage and increasing productivity from agriculture, which employs more than half the workforce.