Islamabad, Sept. 24 (Reuters): US and Pakistani defence officials gathered in Islamabad today to discuss boosting cooperation between the two countries and restoring formal ties suspended since Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests.
The defence consultative group is meeting this week for the first time since 1997, with formal proceedings due to get under way on Thursday with the arrival of US undersecretary of defence Douglas Feith.
Three working groups began preliminary meetings today.
The decision to restore the defence group is seen as a reward for Pakistan’s cooperation with the US-led war on terror and military action in Afghanistan, and was taken when President Pervez Musharraf visited Washington in February.
Pakistan’s state-run PTV television said the two sides were expected to take “far-reaching decisions for extending cooperation in the defence and military field”.
Defence analysts say the talks will focus on several areas of defence cooperation including the release of arms and equipment withheld by Washington in 1990 as a punishment for Islamabad’s nuclear programme.
Officials are also likely to discuss cooperation in patrolling Pakistan’s mountainous border with Afghanistan, where US forces are tracking down fugitive al Qaida and Taliban militants.
Pakistan will also be asking for new weapons, a senior government official told Reuters in Islamabad.
“Pakistan’s request for purchase of new weapons will also be discussed at the defence consultative group meeting,” the official said.
“Whether such a request will materialise or not will be known only after the meeting”.
In 1998, the US slapped economic sanctions on Pakistan and scrapped the defence group meetings.
Pakistan’s delegation at the talks will be led by defence secretary Hamid Nawaz. Pakistan and India have massed over a million troops on their borders since a bloody attack on the Indian parliament in December.