Posts Tagged ‘ $7.5 billion ’

Clinton Adds to Curious History of Mango Diplomacy

By Sebastian Abbot for The Associated Press

When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered Pakistan help last week in exporting mangoes to the U.S. in a bid to dampen anti-American sentiment, it marked the latest chapter in the fruit’s curious history of diplomacy and intrigue.

Clinton’s offer came three years after the Bush administration opened up the U.S. market to Indian mangoes in exchange for allowing Harley-Davidson to sell its famed motorcycles in India – a deal that generated goodwill as the two countries finalized a civilian nuclear agreement.

Washington’s mango-powered diplomacy this time around is part of a broader $7.5 billion aid effort that is meant to improve the image of the U.S. in Pakistan, a move officials hope will provide the Pakistani government with greater room to cooperate on turning around the war in Afghanistan.

“I have personally vouched for Pakistani mangoes, which are delicious, and I’m looking forward to seeing Americans be able to enjoy those in the coming months,” Clinton said during her visit to Islamabad last week.

The prominence of mangoes in South Asian diplomacy should come as no surprise since scientists believe the sweet and fleshy orange fruit originated in the region before Buddhist monks and Persian traders introduced the plant to other areas of the world.

Pakistan and India recognize the mango as their national fruit, and summer in both countries is defined by the sights and sounds of vendors hawking piles of soft, sweet-smelling mangoes or pureeing them to create refreshing drinks that cut through the scorching heat.

Officials from both countries have exchanged crates of mangoes over the years in an attempt to soften tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals that have fought three wars since the partition of British India created the two nations a little over 60 years ago.

Former Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq may have begun the tradition when he swapped mangoes in the early 1980s with the Indian prime minister at the time, Indira Gandhi. The exchange took place several years before ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash that conspiracy theorists blame on a crate of mangoes placed on board moments before takeoff that was supposedly sprayed with a poisonous gas that killed the pilots and other passengers.

But like almost everything else, mangoes have also been a source of tension between Pakistan and India since the two countries view each other as competitors in the export market. Indians and Pakistanis argue over who grows the best mangoes – a debate that resembles the tussle between Lebanon and Israel over who can claim the mashed chickpea dish hummus as their own.

If all goes to plan, Americans will get a chance to conduct their own taste test once Pakistani mangoes break into the U.S. market. The U.S. plans trial shipments later this year and has pledged to support a three-year program to promote the export of Pakistani mangoes by sea to America, the world’s largest importer of the fruit. The initiative is part of a $21 million program to boost Pakistan’s agriculture. The U.S. will help finance hot water treatment facilities, sorting and grading machines and cold storage facilities.

India, meanwhile, is the world’s largest mango producer with about 13 million tons each year, far exceeding all other countries, including Pakistan, which comes in fifth place with about 1.6 million tons. But both countries have struggled to build the necessary infrastructure to really boost exports.

“Farmers are very grateful for the U.S. help,” said Muzaffar Khan Khakwani, the owner of a mango farm near the central Pakistani city of Multan that is benefiting from American aid. “It’s not just the financial help. It’s the capacity building and the exposure of farmers to well managed orchards.”

But it remains to be seen how quickly Pakistan can benefit from Clinton’s recently announced initiative. India had trouble with logistics and pricing when it first tried to export its mangoes to the U.S.

It is even more uncertain whether U.S. aid will really dent anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and motivate the government to step up support for the Afghan war, a move the Pakistanis have resisted for years.

As an Indian proverb says, “You can’t hurry a mango tree to ripen its fruit.”

 

Clinton Reaffirms US Commitment to Pakistan

By Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

Concluding a second round of the so-called U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Islamabad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday announced more than $500 million in several new aid programs for Pakistan.

The string of new projects unveiled by Clinton during a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Memood Qureshi are designed to help Pakistan meet its energy needs and boost power generation, health and agricultural development. The programs are the first to be launched under U.S legislation passed last year tripling civilian aid for Pakistan to $7.5 billion during the next five years.

Secretary Clinton said the United States hopes the new aid will translate into real life improvements for families and communities, describing them as long-term investments in Pakistan’s future.

“We are committed to building a partnership with Pakistan that of course strengthens security and protects the people of Pakistan, but goes far beyond security,” Clinton said. “We want to help you drive economic growth and prosperity, strengthen your democratic government institutions and expand access to the tools of opportunity.”

Pakistan is playing a key role in the international fighting against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. But public opinion in Pakistan still views U.S. motives with a considerable amount of suspicion. The skepticism stems from the U.S decision to abandon support for Pakistan after Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

But Secretary Clinton says she can see positive change resulting from what she called deeper and broader bilateral engagements in recent years.

“We have moved beyond a standoff of our misunderstandings that were allowed to fester and not addressed… to a position where we are engaged in the most open dialogue that I think our two countries have ever had,” she said.

Foreign minister Qureshi also agreed that the enhanced U.S cooperation in various fields such as energy, power, health, agricultural and education sector is critical for changing the public perception in Pakistan.

“The opinion of the United States will change when the people of Pakistan see that their lives have changed,” said Mr. Qureshi.

Sunday, Clinton attended the signing of a landmark trade deal reached by Pakistan and Afghanistan, after years of negotiations. The United States has been pushing Afghan and Pakistani leaders to improve bilateral relations it says will contribute to the fight against extremists.

Secretary Clinton’s next stop as part of her Asia trip will be Kabul, where she will attend an international conference on Tuesday.

At the news conference in Islamabad, she reiterated that insurgents who wish to reconcile must lay down their arms, renounce partnership with al-Qaida and accept Afghanistan’s constitution.

“It seems to us that there will be some who are willing to meet those conditions and others who are not. And we would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box, not through the force of arms.”

Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan and U.S-led coalition forces in recent months. More than 50 foreign troops have died in July while the previous month was the deadliest for international forces since the war against Taliban and its allies began nine years ago.

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