07/19/2010, 00.00
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Islamabad: US$ 7.5 billion in aid against terrorism and Chinese influence

Five-year aid plan will fund energy, health care, agricultural and water projects. US secretary of state highlights US concern for the wellbeing of the Pakistani people, but security remains key issue. Dams and new energy sources are offered as alternatives to nuclear deal with Beijing.
Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The US government has announced a US$ 7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan, to show the Pakistani government and people that the United States is interested in the country’s development, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced yesterday, at the end of a day-long "strategic dialogue" in Islamabad between American and Pakistani officials. Security, however, remains the United States’ top priority. The White House has called on Islamabad to take further steps to fight extremist militias and the Taliban.

Congress had approved the US$ 7.5 billion aid deal last year, including two hydroelectric dams. Ms Clinton stressed that the United States is concerned about the wellbeing of the Pakistani people, beyond the issue of extremism. Energy and health care are the stated priorities, including renovating three hospitals, in Karachi, Lahore and Jacobabad.

Clinton said the US, in addition to hydroelectricity, would also fund several solar and wind energy projects, to limit the import of the nuclear power deal between China and Pakistan, something that worries both Washington and New Delhi.

US aid will also be used to launch several agricultural programmes, and to expand access to clean water in Pakistan, a serious challenge for many Pakistanis.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, said the aid package would bring important benefits for Pakistan. "This relationship is beyond security," he said.

Nevertheless, security concerns and the jihadist threat remain a fundamental part of the US-Pakistan relationship. In fact, speaking to the BBC, Ms Clinton said that the United States was still concerned about possible attacks coming from Pakistan.

The secretary of State also warned that an attack against US territory from Pakistani-based groups would have “devastating impact” on US-Pakistani relations.

In view of this, the United States wants the Pakistani government to dissociate itself from the Haqqani network, a group blamed for a number of attacks and abductions but which is also thought to have close ties with Pakistani intelligence services.

Ms Clinton is scheduled to travel to Kabul tomorrow for a great donor conference on Afghanistan.

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