Atlantic Council hosts Inaugural US-Pakistan Conference

On 14-15 October 2014, the Atlantic Council hosted the inaugural United States Pakistan Conference, a high level track 2 convening of leadership from political, military, business and civil society fields from the United States and Pakistan, to discuss common challenges ahead in the US Pakistan relationship and to search for practicable solutions.

Despite the shared strategic interest in ensuring stability both within Pakistan and South Asia at large, successive disagreements throughout 2011 had seen the US Pakistan relationship plunge to new depths. Diplomatic efforts on both sides had helped to mend rifts from 2012 onwards and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October 2013 appeared to signal a fresh start in the relationship. But there was a feeling on both sides that the relationship had now stalled.

In this context, the conference created a unique opportunity under the South Asia Center’s US Pakistan Program for officials and leaders in various fields to have a candid discussion, take stock of the bilateral relationship, and seek out fresh ideas for greater cooperation and exchange. Participants examined the challenges and opportunities within Pakistan and identified discrete areas of potential cooperation going forward in the security, economics, and governance sectors.

Current US government officials briefed conference participants during the lunch and dinner sessions, to offer direct government interaction and ideas exchange. Overseas Private Investment Corporation President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield spoke on the role of business and trade in the bilateral relationship. US Agency for International Development Assistant to the Administrator in the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs Donald “Larry” Sampler briefed participants on US engagement and development work in Pakistan. Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani and US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Daniel Feldman discussed the relationship on a joint panel, marking the first public remarks by US SRAP Feldman. Click here to read more or watch here:

A full report of the conference findings and recommendations will be released to US and Pakistani policymakers. While the conversation was not-for-attribution, a number of participants spoke to the Atlantic Council on-record, view their comments here.

The conference was part of the South Asia Center’s US Pakistan Program, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The US Pakistan Program was launched late last year with the goal of creating a regular forum on current and emerging issues in Pakistan and between the United States and Pakistan that would survive the ups and downs of the political relationship, with a view to three critical sectors: security, economy, and governance.