Now you have it, now you don’t


Whatever understanding Washington had with Islamabad after Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani’s statement that NATO supply lines must be reopened after a six-month closure – and after the Defence Committee of the Cabinet said the negotiations on NATO supply routes be concluded – appears to have been pre-mature.
The negotiations with the US/NATO team that is still in Pakistan still have to be concluded.
Terms of financial charges have still not been worked out, mainly because what the US is willing to pay is not acceptable to Pakistan. Hitherto, the US has paid around $350 per container through Pakistan, while it is paying $7,000 per container for the Uzbekistani route.
According to various estimates, the intensity of the traffic translates into a container every seven minutes. However, security arrangements, including inspection and movement reports, have been worked out between Pakistan and the US officials.
Based on discussions with various sources in Chicago, the other more immediate grouse that the US and NATO have against Pakistan is that Islamabad refused the request made by the two that a few hundred containers be released on old terms of supply with NATO.
The failure to resolve these issues has translated, at least until now, into two specific developments.
The expected trilateral meeting between Pakistan, US and Afghan presidents in Chicago is unlikely to take place. The NATO secretary general’s meeting, which may still take place, has for now been postponed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s presence in Chicago provides the country an opportunity to present its views at the Afghanistan session taking place on the second day of the summit.
Pakistan has a message of peaceful cooperation and reconciliation to give, but also candidly express its concerns, which it will do at the five-hour long meeting on Afghanistan that will be attended by 58 heads of NATO states plus leaders of Central Asian republics, Japan, Russia and the IFC representatives. During this meeting, the Pakistani delegation will interact with everyone, including the US president, in addition to meeting President Karzai, the Australian prime minister and the Turkish president.
Perhaps one of the more important meetings that Pakistan’s president would have would be with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The inability to settle issues, ranging from NATO supply lines to CSF payments and unilateral drone attacks, remain the major hurdles in normalizing Pakistan-US relations.
On the apology issue, while Pakistan still seeks it, Washington seems to have removed it from its own check list.
The big question is whether the Zardari-Clinton meeting will manage a solution to any of these issues.
Meanwhile, without giving any reason, President Karzai’s press conference scheduled for Sunday was cancelled. Zardari has no planned presser. NATO provides a forum to all participating delegations to address the nearly 2,000-strong global press corps.