Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reiterated his desire to rebuild an anti-terror alliance with the United States, but said he would let parliament decide.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani speaks to a China Daily reporter on Sunday in Boao, Hainan province. Gilani said he would like to improve relations with the US and rebuild an anti-terror alliance. [Huang Yiming/China Daily]
"We know the importance of the United States and we want to work with the United States, but on a (basis of) mutual respect and mutual interests," said Gilani.
"I am certain the parliament will bring about new rules of engagement with the United States as well as with NATO."
Gilani made the remarks in an exclusive interview with China Daily just days after meeting with US President Barack Obama last week in Seoul, the highest-level contact between the two sides since the US killing of Osama bin Laden in a cross-border raid.
Gilani said such unilateral action has naturally caused resentment from Pakistani people.
"Our concerns of sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected," he said.
The relationship worsened when aircraft from NATO's Afghanistan force attacked two Pakistan border posts and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
Since then the Pakistani side has brought in a parliamentary review to draw up recommendations on how to proceed on ties with Washington.
It also shut off ground supply lines to the US-led NATO mission in land-locked Afghanistan.
"We had good relations with the United States in the last 60 years," Gilani said, noting there are lots of ups and downs because of various kinds of issues.
He said he told Obama that US drone strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants were counterproductive but did not reveal the details of the talks. The US has refused to discuss the strikes publicly.
"We left parliament to apply its collective wisdom to decide," he said.
Reports quoted Gilani as saying he is in no hurry to reopen supply routes to NATO and that a decision will be made only after evolving consensus among political parties.
It has been a fairly turbulent period for US-Pakistan relations in the past year, said Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Pakistan has realized that now is the time to stop the ties from deteriorating," he said, adding that a base for cooperation still exists.
He said the White House also stated earlier that it continued to view Pakistan as an important ally because of its role in Afghanistan and in the war against terrorism.
Dong Manyuan, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, said Pakistan will always be of great strategic importance for the US, even if Washington finally withdraws all its troops from Afghanistan.
"The cooperation between the US and Pakistan is still vital to ultimately defeating the Taliban and maintaining the stability of the region before and beyond 2014," he said.
To achieve the goal, the two countries have to strengthen strategic communication and mutual trust, while the US needs to shoulder due responsibility as a major counter-terrorism power, instead of heating the tension by violating Pakistan's sovereignty, Dong said.
"We want stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of that solution," said Gilani.