asif ali zardari , needed a deal” with the United States to strengthen his political position

asif ali zardari


Classified By: Ambassador Anne W. Patterson for reasons 1.4

1. (C) Summary: In a February 16 meeting with President
Zardari, Senator Kerry said that India was “very open” to
constructive talks with Pakistan, and urged Pakistan to reach
an agreement with India on counter terrorism.

Zardari said
with U.S. support, talks could move forward. He said he
doubted broad talks with the Taliban were possible, specific
regional efforts might succeed. Pakistan was fighting
militants in Pakistan on a “shoe-string” budget, but Zardari
said that he was committed to finding ways to undermine the
pull towards militancy in Pakistani society. Kerry said that
the GOP needed to rebuild conflict-affected areas to cement
military gains against the insurgency. Kerry encouraged
Zardari to develop trade agreements with Pakistan’s neighbors
and agreed to Zardari’s request to build consensus for
liberalizing U.S. trade with Pakistan. Zardari lamented that
he was “a casualty of the world recession,” and requested
U.S. support to relieve IMF conditions on the Pakistani
economy. He said he needed “a deal” with the United States
to strengthen his political position. End Summary.

 Indo-Pak Agreement

2. (C) Senator John Kerry opened the February 16 meeting with
President Asif Ali Zardari by referring to his recent talks
with Indian PM Manmohan Singh and Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza
Gilani (reftel). Kerry said Singh was “very open” to
negotiation with Pakistan, starting with the upcoming
discussions between Pakistan and India’s Foreign Secretaries.
Kerry said that cooperation on counter terrorism with the
Indians could lead to Indian compromises on key Pakistani
issues such as Kashmir and water use in subsequent meetings.
Kerry encouraged the GOP to come up with specific offers to
which the GOI could respond.

3. (C) Zardari agreed dialogue is the only way forward.
However, he justified continued suspicion of India, citing
recent “confirmation” that there was Indian involvement in
the Mumbai attacks. He claimed India had increased its
military spending 30 percent this year and described this as
a direct threat to Pakistan. When Kerry pointed out the
Chinese threat to India, Zardari responded that Indian tanks
cannot operate in the Chinese border region and could only be
intended for an attack on Pakistan. India has 4,700 tanks,
he explained, while Pakistan has only 2,600. “Capability
creates a fear,” he added.

4. (C) Kerry said Zardari should put his concerns on the
negotiating table as there was a real opportunity for
productive conversation between India and Pakistan now: “You
could arrive at a surprising consensus of mutual
understanding.” Zardari conceded that Singh deserved
respect, but said he was not confident about the rest of the
Indian government.

Zardari,s Take on Afghanistan and Iran

5. (C) Kerry asked Zardari what affect President Obama’s
announcement of a U.S. drawdown date had had on the
possibility of success in Afghanistan. Zardari answered that
it had given a boost to those fighting against the United
States, but that they “live in illusion.” Zardari doubted
that the U.S. would actually leave Afghanistan in two and a
half years, adding that “no one can afford that.” Kerry
asked if dialogue with the Taliban was possible. Zardari
gave a qualified yes: in specific regions, like Quetta,
dialogue might be possible, but on a larger scale it was not.
Kerry asked to what degree events in Iran have an impact in
Pakistan. Zardari said Iran needs to be engaged, and
recounted his visit to Iran as an emissary of the “free

Pakistan’s Fight Against Militants

6. (C) Kerry noted that, with the December mosque bombing in
Rawalpindi, Pakistani terrorism had changed. He asked if
Pakistan was going to commit to doing whatever it takes to
get rid of extremism. Zardari replied that he was thinking
of the future and what will win people away from extremism in
ten or fifteen years. He added, however, that he was
“fighting a war on a shoestring budget.”

7. (C) Kerry said the GOP needed to rebuild the
conflict-affected areas as soon as possible. He explained
that new roads, power plants, and health clinics need to go
in quickly or any progress made in vanquishing the militants
and extremists would be lost. Zardari agreed but added that
the war went beyond these areas. He explained that when a
U.S. soldier leaves Afghanistan, he no longer fears for his
life; when a Pakistani soldier leaves the conflict areas,
however, he has to worry that militants might target him in
his home in Punjab or Sindh.

Trade, not Aid

8. (C) Zardari complained that Reconstruction Opportunity
Zones (ROZs) were too confined and requested broader trade
concessions for Pakistan. Kerry said that, given the
increase in troops in Afghanistan and the subsequent
increased U.S. demand on Pakistan, he would see if greater
trading concessions for Pakistan as a whole could be included
in an upcoming security package.

9. (C) Kerry warned, however, that his ability to push for a
liberalized trade agreement between Pakistan and the U.S. was
directly tied to Pakistan’s democratic stability and
continued cooperation in supporting Afghanistan and defeating
terrorists. Every time there is a “hiccough” in Pakistan’s
support, Kerry explained, Congress waivers on giving Pakistan
additional concessions or aid. As Pakistan was a new
democracy, Zardari said there would naturally be many
“hiccoughs,” but added, “message understood.” Kerry said
that Pakistan also needed to create trade agreements with its
neighbors, which would let the Pakistani public know that the
GOP was committed to real economic improvement.

Pakistan Nuclear Assistance

10. (S) Kerry said that the lingering A.Q. Khan network
remained “an albatross” around Pakistan’s neck. Pakistan’s
ability to reach a new security arrangement with India and
the increased strength of Pakistan’s democratic institutions
would be necessary conditions for the U.S. to consider
civilian nuclear assistance to Pakistan.

Something for the People of Pakistan

11. (C) Zardari expressed his gratitude for U.S. assistance
to Pakistan. He opined that he was “a casualty of the world
recession” and needed something to give his people, as all
they had since he came to power were price increases.
Zardari requested that the USG weigh in with the IMF against
further electricity tariff increases. Another increase, he
warned, would result in riots in the streets. However,
Zardari promised to broaden the tax base and implement a
Value-added Tax (VAT), as required by the IMF Stand-by

12. (C) Zardari said poverty, uncertainty, and the lack of
educational and employment opportunities undermined
Pakistan’s potential as well as his political standing.
Zardari said he needs a “deal” to show his people that he has
something to offer them, and that assistance and trade
concessions were prerequisites to “be able to think about

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