U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday for a three-day visit to Pakistan amid a spate of terrorist attacks in the country, RIA-Novosti reported.
An internally displaced Pakistani family, fleeing from military operations against Taliban militants in South Waziristan, rides with their belongings on a pickup truck near Bannu on October 27. (AFP Photo)
Although Clinton's trip had been announced, the exact date of her arrival had not been disclosed for security reasons. Pakistan has seen almost daily attacks by militants in recent weeks, with more than 150 people killed.
In a briefing with reporters on the flight to Islamabad, Clinton said her trip would expand cooperation with Pakistan beyond the military sphere, and she stressed that she would be reaching out to the country's broadly anti-American public with extensive media engagements.
"I view this as a very important trip in our continuing effort to create a comprehensive relationship with Pakistan that covers a whole range of issues," she said. "We are turning a page on what has been in the last several years primarily a security anti-terrorist agenda. We hold that to be extremely important. It remains a very high priority. But we also recognize that it's imperative that we broaden our engagement with Pakistan."
"We believe we have a lot in common. We have areas of disagreement, obviously. We're trying to narrow those and expand common ground that we both can take over together," she said.
However, much of her consultations with Pakistani leaders, expected to include President Asif Ali Zardari, will focus on the security situation, particularly in Pakistan's restive tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
As with her recent visit to Moscow, the secretary of state will take part in a town hall meeting with university students, part of a strategy of public diplomacy she has pursued around the world.
"I think it's fair to say that there has been a lot of misconceptions about what the United States intends with our relationship with Pakistan," she told reporters. "We're trying to reach more broadly into the society."
"We want to strengthen democracy, we want to strengthen civilian institutions, which we think are in the best interest of the people of Pakistan," she added. "It is unfortunate that there are those who question our motives, perhaps are skeptical that we're going to commit to a long-term relationship, and I want to try to clear the air."
Clinton also said that during his visit she would announce some U.S. investments in Pakistan's economy.
"We have done a lot of consulting with people in Pakistan, and so like people everywhere, they want good jobs, they want to improve their incomes and their livelihoods, they want reliable electricity and energy so that they can maintain commercial enterprises and avoid the regular disruption of their electricity supply. They want education. They want healthcare," she said.
U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation on October 15 providing Pakistan with $7.5 billion in aid over the next five years. Some of the funds are conditional on Pakistan fighting Taliban militants.