AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry met Tuesday with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to exchange ideas about improving the economy and discuss the strained relationship between the U.S. and Pakistani governments.
Musharraf has been critical of the White House's recent suspension of $800 million in U.S. aid to the Pakistani military, saying the decreased aid will hurt his country and hinder its fight against terrorism. Perry did not directly criticize the federal decision, but he said he hoped the two governments could work their way through the conflicts and get "on the same page of the hymnbook."
"All of us are concerned ... any time there's conflict between these historic friends," Perry said, as the two men and their wives met for a private lunch at an Austin hotel. "I'll leave it to the administration and the diplomats to continue to work on this."
Musharraf said he requested the meeting with Perry, who is considering a run for president in 2012, to "exchange notes" about the economic success in Texas under the Republican governor's leadership.
"And then the present state of conditions between the United States and Pakistan saddens me," Musharraf said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. "It saddens me especially because, as the governor said, back in 2006 .... up to 2008 when I left, my relations, Pakistan's relations with the United States were excellent, and I have always believed that interstate relations have a lot to do with interpersonal relations between the leaders."
Musharraf, who is considering a presidential run himself in 2013, said he had "excellent relations" with former President George W. Bush.
"We could lift the telephone and talk to each other any time, we could look into each other's eyes and talk very frankly and straight to each other," he said. "Therefore there was a relationship of trust and confidence between us which held us in good stead."
Perry said he saw how money spent through the U.S. Agency for International Development helped in Pakistan during a 2006 trip to the earthquake-stricken country.
"These young children, just these bright faces in just rubble, nothing but devastation up there and the USAID literally saved their lives," he said. "It was a great effort and I think the United States, Pakistan relationship at that particular point in time was very, very solid."
The agency provides aid to Pakistan to support education, health, energy, economic growth and recovery efforts from natural disasters.