Controversy over NATO Supply
By Sajjad Shaukat
While controversy continues between Pakistan and the United States in wake of the ongoing negotiations for the resumption of NATO supply across the country to Afghanistan, American duplicity and pressure tactics are creating obstacles in reaching an agreement in this regard.
This controversy is due to the fact that America is pressurising Islamabad for earlier restoration of NATO route unilaterally by setting aside other issues, while Pakistan wants to discuss all the inter-related subjects namely drone attacks, rate of charges of NATO trucks, border’s coordination mechanism, apology by US over Salala incident etc. So, it is owing to US illogical approach that the negotiating teams of both the countries are not agreeing to each other’s demands.
It is notable that since May 14, 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 May 20-21 by explaining that Pakistan needs 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.
It is mentionable that when the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) met on May 15, 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.
Debate continued among over 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 May 21, 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 November 26, 2011 unprovoked Salala check post incident which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Even in his speech at the Chicago conference, while expressing similar thoughts, President Zardari emphasised that the DCC directed the relevant officials to conclude talks for resumption of the NATO ground supply. President Zardari also raised the issues of non-payment of Coalition Support Fund.
Besides Pakistan’s political analysts and media, even American officials and renowned newspapers had predicted that an agreement would reach in relation to the NATO supply during the NATO summit, but the negotiations became deadlocked over Islamabad’s demands which also include $5,000 per truck heading to Afghanistan. US officials rejected Pakistan’s proposal and have also refused apology for the death of the 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 in relation the restoration of NATO supply lines in wake of ongoing negotiations between Pak-US diplomats, we need to grasp realistic approach in this connection.
It is of particular attention that US always blackmails Pakistan through financial pressure. Every time, I.M.F sanctions loan to Islamabad after American 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 the Russian Federation. Recently, Moscow and Islamabad also agreed to enhance the bilateral relations in diverse fields.
However, on the 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 May 22 that the government was facing pressure for resumption of the NATO supply, said in his recent statement that US apology was essential for reopening the supplies.
Especially, US high officials and NATO leaders recognise that they cannot obtain stability in Afghanistan without the help of Pakistan. But at the same time, US is making the ongoing talks with Islamabad more complicated through its coercive diplomacy. In this context, on June 5, 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 wake of the 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, while pampering New Delhi, during his visit to India, on June 6, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly pointed out that that drone attacks would continue on Pakistan’s soil. Earlier President Obama has also defended these strikes by US spy planes as part of American so-called counterinsurgency strategy. In fact, the main aim of American this duplicity is not only to destabilise Pakistan by provacating 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.
Taking cognisance of the US double game in wake of US unjustified drone strikes, Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt General Zaheerul Islam has postponed his scheduled visit to the US.
Nonetheless, by rejecting 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 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.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations