| Updated at: 0705 PST, Wednesday, October 20, 2010|
WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan meet Wednesday in a new bid to smooth out an uneasy partnership, with Washington ready to offer fresh military assistance despite unease in India.
The three-day talks are the latest round of "strategic dialogue," an initiative by President Barack Obama's administration to show Pakistan's skeptical public that it wants ties beyond just cooperation on Afghanistan.
The talks come after Pakistan temporarily shut down the main crossing for war supplies heading into Afghanistan, infuriated by a NATO helicopter strike that killed Pakistani soldiers in the border area.
Frank Ruggiero, the US deputy special representative on Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the talks aimed to "move beyond these tensions." He said the US side would take up support for Pakistan's economy, flood survivors -- and military.
"We specifically worked with the Pakistanis over the summer to identify what would be the types of military equipment and so on," Ruggiero told reporters. "That will be a topic of discussion at the strategic dialogue."
The US Congress last year approved a five-year, 7.5 billion-dollar package for Pakistan aimed at building schools, infrastructure and democratic institutions in hopes of denting the appeal of Islamic extremists.
Ruggiero said the United States considered its ties with India and Pakistan to be "distinct bilateral relationships."
The United States has hailed Pakistan's commitment to fighting its homegrown Taliban, including launching a major offensive in its tribal areas.
But New Delhi has pressed for Pakistan to do more against anti-Indian extremists such as those linked to the bloody 2008 assault on Mumbai. A recent White House report to Congress also faulted Pakistan for avoiding direct conflict with Afghanistan's Taliban, in what experts see as an attempt by Islamabad to preserve influence in the country once US forces leave.
"I think we see an unprecedented level of cooperation from the Pakistanis in taking on insurgents," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, while adding that the United States will explain in the dialogue "what more must be done."
The strategic dialogue culminates Friday in talks between Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani will also take part and hold talks at the Pentagon.
Qureshi, speaking Monday at Harvard University, said that Pakistan was committed to joining the United States "to destroy the terrorist cancer that threatens all of civilization."
"But we are first and foremost, like every nation on earth, committed to preserving our national interest," Qureshi said.
Ashley Tellis, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accused Pakistan of extracting aid from Washington while supporting the very groups that undermine Afghanistan's stability.