Debate over NATO supplies
Since 14 May of this year, when Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had indicated that Pakistan should restore NATO supply across the country to attend a NATO summit in Chicago on 20-21 May by explaining that Pakistan needed to go ahead and try to improve relations with US in order to avoid isolation by the international community, a debate started among country’s political experts and media anchors over the issue.Notably, when the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) met on 15 May, most of Pakistan’s political analysts and TV anchors made clear-cut speculations that Islamabad would restore the NATO supply route through that meeting before the Chicago summit due to growing pressure of the US-led NATO countries, but DCC fixed no deadline in this respect.
The debate continued among the political circles and media commentators regarding the resumption of NATO supply lines. Some of them presumed that President Asif Ali Zardari would announce the decision of reopening these transport routes during the NATO meeting as Pakistan is badly in need of financial aid, while some opined that Islamabad would resume NATO supply lines immediately after that summit. But most of them agreed that Pakistan would restore these supplies without putting condition on America to stop drone attacks.On 21 May, US President Barack Obama also met Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of NATO summit amid widespread reports that the US deliberately pressurised Pakistani president to meet US-NATO demands for reopening the supply route. But President Zardari told Obama that drone attacks must be stopped, while pointing out Pakistan’s demand for US apology over the 26 November, 2011, unprovoked Salala check post incident which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Besides Pakistan’s political analysts and media, even American officials and renowned newspapers had predicted that an agreement would be made in relation to the NATO supply during the NATO summit, but the negotiations became deadlocked over Islamabad’s demands which also include $5,000 special charges per truck heading to Afghanistan. US officials rejected Pakistan’s proposal and have also refused to tender apology for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in the 26 November air strikes.
Nevertheless, all the speculations about the resumption of NATO transport routes proved untrue. While conflicting reports are coming regarding the restoration of NATO supply lines in the wake of ongoing negotiations between Pak-US diplomats, we need to grasp realistic approach in this connection.
It is mentionable that the US always blackmails Pakistan through financial pressure. IMF sanctions loan to Islamabad only after American gives a green signal. While, at this critical juncture, our country has been facing precarious financial problems, US-led NATO countries are compelling Islamabad to accept American undue demands to re-open the NATO transport routes unilaterally. After noting American duress, Pakistan which has already strengthened its ties with China, has also cultivated its relations with Russia. Recently, Moscow and Islamabad also agreed to enhance bilateral relations in diverse fields.
On one side, NATO countries seek to adopt Pakistani routes for withdrawal of their troops and vehicles from Afghanistan, while on the other, they are using pressure tactics on Islamabad. In this respect, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who admitted on 22 May that the government was facing pressure for resumption of the NATO supplies, said in a recent statement that US apology was essential for reopening the supplies.
US high officials and NATO leaders recognise that they cannot obtain stability in Afghanistan without the help of Pakistan. But at the same time, the US is making the ongoing talks with Islamabad more complicated through its coercive diplomacy. In this context, on 5 June, a US Senate panel voted cuts in aid to Pakistan by 58 percent, and threatened to withhold even more cash, if Islamabad does not reopen its supply lines for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.
At this crucial hour, when Pakistan’s diplomats are negotiating a complex issue of resumption of NATO supply routes in the wake of heightening political noise inside the country, in the last 11 days, CIA-operated drone attacks killed more than 40 people in North Waziristan besides South Waziristan. Notably, during his visit to India, on 6 June, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly pointed out that drone attacks would continue on Pakistan’s soil. In fact, the main aim of American duplicity is not only to destabilise Pakistan by provoking the militants for more suicide attacks as part of Indo-US and Israeli secret agenda because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world, but also to make Islamabad accept favourble terms and conditions of America.
Despite the US pressure for earlier restoration of NATO transport routes, Pakistan’s civil and military leaders must remain stern on their assertions that the issue of NATO supply lines would be decided in the light of recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and the Defence Committee of the Cabinet after negotiating re-engagement with the US as approved by the parliament.
The writer is foreign affairs analyst and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power. He can be contacted at: [email protected]