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Gen Kayani may head to US in coming months

ISLAMABAD – Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani may visit the United States in a month or two to discuss counter-terrorism cooperation along with other bilateral issues with the top American military leadership and strengthen the defense ties, as Islamabad and Washington are currently engaged in talks to work out a schedule for this vital trip.
The visit of the army chief, if worked out by the two sides, would not be in the context of much awaited ‘bilateral strategic dialogue’, which was suspended last year after the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis in Lahore in January for killing two Pakistani citizens.
It would be a separate official trip on his part.
Pakistan and the US are currently working on the revival of the strategic dialogue and an important decision in this regard is likely to be made during the upcoming visit of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to Washington beginning September 20.
The announcement about the revival of strategic dialogue and the dates for the purpose, according to diplomatic sources, will not be made public during the visit of Foreign Minister Khar, as key officials in Obama administration are completely focused on President Obama’s re-election bid in November and the strategic dialogue too is likely to be held early next year.
“Army chief’s visit to Washington, if a decision was made about it, would be a part of exchange of trips of high level military officials between Islamabad and Washington,” said a diplomatic source seeking anonymity.
He, however, said it was not possible to give any dates of this important visit as that thing was currently being looked into by the two sides. “You can say that the visit could take place in a month or two,” he said.
He said the possibility of Kayani’s trip to Washington indicated the improvement in the ties of Pakistan and the US, as earlier, it was announced by Islamabad that there was no likelihood of a visit to the US by the Pakistani army chief and back in August this year, only ISI Director Lt General Zaheerul Islam visited the American capital.
In a landmark development, General Kayani is also expected to make a visit to Moscow later this month and it would be the first trip by any Pakistan army chief to Russia.
The source said General Kayani’s trip to Moscow was meant to enhance cooperation with Russia in the field of defense and it was not right to say that it was a sign of Pakistan’s tilt towards that country owing to estrangement with the United States.
A Washington-based Pakistani diplomat also confirmed the talks between Islamabad and Washington for working out the visit of General Kayani to the US.
He said that the army chief would discuss the counter-terrorism cooperation and other issues of mutual interest with the American military officials and his visit, if it took place, would help decrease further the tension in ties between Islamabad and Washington.(PakistanToday)

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