Remarks by Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan
5:04 P.M. Pakistan Standard Time
PRIME MINISTER GILANI: Mr. Vice President, it gives me immense pleasure to once again welcome you to Pakistan. We regard you as a good friend and appreciate your important contribution to reviewing the friendship and partnership between the United States and Pakistan.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER GILANI: Pakistan and United States have been on the same side for over half a century and at all defining periods of contemporary history. Our friendship and partnership is based on shared values.
Vice President Biden, your visit has provided us a good opportunity to exchange views on bilateral and regional issues. We had very fruitful discussions. Pakistan looks forward with confidence of a robust, enduring and mutually beneficial partnership with the United States. Policy consultations and coordination are necessary for attaining a shared cause. We value United States’ support for Pakistan’s economy, stability and security. We have set ourselves a calendar of extensive engagements during 2011. Comprehensive engagements at all plans is important.
I’m happy to note that our enhanced strategic dialogue process is now in place. We are determined to utilize this and other mechanisms to give greater substance and strength to our relations.
I must add that our discussion today on combating terror, issues of regional stability and promoting reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan were extremely useful. Mr. Vice President, I assure you that we intend to work practical solutions and answers to many difficult issues.
Please convey our warm greetings to President Obama and the friendly people of United States. Thank you very much.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. And it’s an honor to be back here, and I want to thank you and your colleagues for your hospitality. I took so much of your time, and we talked about so many things in detail that you’re probably very tired, but I found it extremely useful, and I thank you very much.
I also had a chance to meet with President Zardari today, and I’m going from here -- as a matter of fact I’m late -- I’m going from here to meet with General Kayani later this afternoon.
Although it’s been almost two years since I have been back to Islamabad -- two years this month as a matter of fact -- I’ve had the occasion and it’s been my great honor to host you as well as the President in both my home and my office, and I look forward to seeing you again soon. And I tell you that we have had numerous telephone conversations, and I thank you for always taking my call, and I thank you for your input.
I have been privileged in my career in United States Senate and as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to have a long relationship with Pakistani leaders, going all the way back to the early ‘70s. And our relationship, in my view and the view of President Obama, is absolutely vital, absolutely vital to U.S. interests, and I believe you believe it is to Pakistani interests, as well.
That's why I’m here. This is why it’s the first overseas trip of the New Year. And I can tell you President Obama sends his regards and is looking forward later this year to make a trip to Islamabad, as well.
The President and I -- indeed, the entire world, I would suggest -- were saddened, saddened by the cold-blooded murder of a decent, brave man. The governor was killed simply because he was a voice for tolerance and understanding. To state the obvious, there is no justification, none, for such senseless acts.
As you know all too well and all students of history know, as we’ve seen throughout history, societies that tolerate such actions end up being consumed by those actions. So please accept my deepest condolences and those of President Obama and those of the American people.
The United States and Pakistan have forged an enduring partnership, as you referenced, Mr. Prime Minister, against extreme ideologies; a partnership based, as you pointed out, on our common interests and our mutual respect for one another.
And because we so value that partnership, I think it’s important to not only our leaders, as we talked -- as I talked about, understand one another, but that our populations understand one another, the leadership of each of our respective countries, the motives and the intentions, and avoid misconceptions about each of our motives or intentions.
That's why we in the United States and this administration pays close attention to what Pakistanis believe about the United States and U.S. intentions as it relates to Pakistan. We read your newspaper, and to some of the columnists out here, we read you, columnists, as well. We watch your television programs, as you do ours. And we -- and I personally -- meet with Pakistanis from all walks of life. And I am privileged to have close relationships with the Pakistani American communities, which is very well organized; close relationships for the past 30 years.
So I would like to take this opportunity to address directly what I believe are some misconceptions about U.S. actions and even more importantly about U.S. intentions with regard to our partner, Pakistan.
We know that there are those -- I’m not talking about the leadership; I’m talking about in the public discourse -- those who believe that in America’s fight against al Qaeda, that we have imposed a war upon Pakistan. But violence -- violent extremists are a threat not just to the United States but to Pakistan, as well, and indeed to the entire civilized world.
The fact is that al Qaeda plotted an attack that killed nearly 3,000 American citizens. And they continue to plot attacks against the United States and our interests to this very day. And they have, not with your help, but they have found refuge in some of the most remote portions of your country.
As Pakistanis have wondered whether or not we are part of the problem instead of the solution, al Qaeda has worked with extremist allies who have had you as a target and your people as a target, maiming and murdering thousands of Pakistani security forces and ordinary citizens, as you saw so clearly in Swat and other parts of your country.
There are those also who accuse the United States of violating your sovereignty as we support your army and pursue terrorists where they hide. I know well over the past 30 years the proud, proud traditions of the Pakistani military and its capacity to defend and protect Pakistan. But I would respectfully suggest that it’s the extremists who violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and corrupt its good name. Our goal is to work with your leaders and you, Mr. Prime Minister, to restore and strengthen sovereignties in those areas of your country where extremists have violated it.
There are even some critics in Pakistani society and elsewhere that suggest that America disrespects Islam and its followers. I would like to take some of you to Los Angeles to one of the largest mosques in the world, where Muslim Americans practice their religion in full view and with respect of all Americans.
The assertion that we disrespect Islam is actually quite the opposite. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States of America. And as President Obama said in the heart of Cairo, one of the world’s great Muslim-majority cities, and I quote, “Islam is part of America. And I believe” -- continuing the quote, he said, “I believe America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security, to get education, to work with dignity, to love our families, our communities, and our God.”
To those who make these charges against us, I would challenge them to name any other country in the world, any country in the world, who -- where those of all faiths enjoy greater freedom of worship than they do in the United States of America. Name me a single country in the world.
So I want to put to rest, which I know I will not by this simple assertion -- we are not, we are not the enemies of Islam, and we embrace those who practice that great religion in our country.
There are also those who believe that our policies favor India and seek to weaken -- I’ve even heard some right -- and say to even dismantle this great country. You know and your colleagues know that is dead wrong. We want what you want: a strong, stable, prosperous democratic Pakistan at peace with itself and with its neighbors, including India. We want that not just for your sake but we wish your success because it’s in our own interest. It’s in the interest of the entire region and I would argue the entire world.
America admires, admires the vision of your great founder, who said wisely, and I quote, “Our object should be peace within, and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with the world at large.” End of quote. President Obama and I and everyone in our administration shares that vision.
There's one last misconception I'd like to address, and I’m not suggesting these misconceptions are held or shared by anyone in this government, but we read them, we listen to them, we watch them on your television.
The one last misconception I'd like to address is there are those who point to America’s history in this region and claim that eventually we will abandon Pakistan; we will no longer be concerned. But I have learned and we have learned from the past that only a productive way forward -- the only productive way forward is a long-term enduring partnership.
As I said two years ago when I was here -- and some of you covered me -- as I said four years ago when I came with Senator Kerry and others, and I said before that, our nations must move from what unfortunately for several decades was a transactional relationship to a true partnership, a sustained partnership.
That's why we’ve established in Pakistan our largest educational exchange, and English-language program, in the entire world, a long-term investment in the dynamism of your young people.
A growing number, a growing number of Pakistani Americans, Americans of Pakistani descent, play an increasingly, increasingly visible role in bridging our societies and building those enduring partnerships.
I hope you will acknowledge we have demonstrated -- I say this to the press -- we have demonstrated by our actions over the last several years we mean what we say.
Through our Strategic Dialogue, as you pointed out, we’ve begun to implement projects that will benefit the people of Pakistan, in areas ranging from energy to agriculture to communications. This means that you will soon see more dams providing more electricity and irrigation; crop yields that are higher; more hospitals providing services to the people of Pakistan, among other tangible benefits.
Through what used to be called the Biden-Lugar bill -- now the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation -- we committed $7.5 billion, in very difficult economic times for us, as well as you and the rest of the world, in civilian assistance over the next five years. There has been talk, and it’s true, that it took a while to get going. But it is moving, and we will keep the entire commitment.
Rather than dictate to Pakistan how this money should be spent, we’re partnering with the government to achieve your priorities to lay a foundation for a sustainable long-term economic growth for this great country.
We’ve increased security cooperation between our two militaries, including training, support for operations, and greater coordination among -- along the border in Afghanistan. And we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people during the last summer’s devastating, amazingly devastating, floods, deploying troops, airlift support, relief supplies to the affected regions as quickly as we possibly could. Our only regret is we could not do more, more quickly with more resources. I know the work is not yet done with regard to the floods, and that your government, Mr. Prime Minister, faces very difficult choices in addressing the cost of rebuilding.
And we have made a long-term commitment to assist with the reconstruction and recovery, as evidenced by our announcement last week of another $190 million in Watan -- I’m hoping I’m pronouncing it correctly -- Watan cards.
And by the way, I don’t say this to say -- for you to suggest that you owe us any debt or gratitude. It’s what partners do for partners. It’s what should be done. It’s in our interest to help you beyond it being the right thing to do.
These are just some of the many initiatives underway that are strengthening our partnership and helping to forge a more secure and, God willing, more prosperous Pakistan.
Let me leave you all with this final thought. My country’s aspirations for Pakistan largely mirror yours, Mr. Prime Minister, and the rest of the Pakistani people.
When my grandchildren and their grandchildren read news from Pakistan, I don't want them to find articles about terrorism, poverty, political instability, lack of American support. I want them to be able to focus on the great Pakistani scientist winning Nobel Peace Prizes -- or excuse me, Nobel Prizes for Science. I want the focus -- them to focus on entrepreneurs founding global businesses that you have. I want them to focus on the artists creating masterpieces. I want them to focus on the brilliance of your culture and the incredible resources, human resources, of your country.
As we embark on this New Year, Mr. Prime Minister, we must, in my view and the President’s view, rededicate ourselves to building on the progress we have made in the last couple years and what still must be achieved together.
Again, I'll end where I began. A close partnership with Pakistan and its people is in the vital self-interest of the United States of America and, I would argue, although it’s for you to decide, in the vital self-interest of Pakistan, as well.
The discussions we had today, Mr. Prime Minister, as you aptly stated, are an important, an important step of the many we’ve taken so far toward that end. My hope is, God willing, if I’m able to stand here next year with you, that we will be able to point to greater progress, greater resolve and more, more economic prosperity for both your people and mine. And again, I thank you all and your folks for taking so much time with me.
And I apologize, but I am late for my meeting with General Kayani, and I am never late for generals. Thank you very much.
5:24 P.M. Pakistan Standard Time