The Salala & Supply

The Salala and SupplyMaimuna Ashraf

The Nato Summit that held in Chicago ended last and a forceful debate about its achievements has been started afterwards. Though affirmed by and large that it went without its goal being achieved however this statement should be examined more specifically than generally. Pakistan was invited and she participated but the media reports which were before more focused on Pakistan’s participation in the summit are now focusing on some other perspectives. It was assumed that Pakistan will remain at focal point because of NATO supply route issue but in fact there was no bilateral meeting between the heads of two states, moreover no meeting was held between Pakistan’s President and NATO Secretary General. It is reported by western media that President Obama denied for a formal meeting with Pakistan President until Pakistan opens the NATO supply routes. Hence the explicit scrutiny tells about the implicit feebleness between the so called allies.

President Zardari made an endeavor at the Chicago summit to put all the persuasive apprehensions of Pakistan in front of international community which are linked with US policy on the war on terror. Even a White House official stated that US President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the US-Pakistan relations in a meeting that took place on the sidelines of the NATO Summit. However, it is interesting that when Chicago Summit was continued and these statements from both states were in spotlight, drone strikes were also continued and several tribesmen were killed in North Waziristan, hence it tells that plea to end drone attacks went unheard. Secondly, President Zardari wanted US to offer an apology for the malicious killings of the twenty-four military persons which were stationed at Salala last November, something which is very valid concern of Pakistan. Pakistani nation is frequently questioning government that over the past 10 years that Pakistan has provided backing to every whim of the Americans and assisted in the war on terror despite the high cost of civilians, military lives, the battered economy and becoming a regular target of militant backlash, whereas US cannot even muster an apology to us? Ben Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Adviser was when asked if the US would ever apologize over the Salala incident, Rhodes reiterated the US stance that they deeply regret the incident. “We believe there is a basis to move forward.” Reimbursement of the promised Coalition Support Fund (CSF) is another concern of Pakistan. Pakistan, for the current fiscal, has budgeted $1.34 billion, or Rs118.7 billion, on account of CSF reimbursement, but the US has not released the amount yet. Conversely, in the wake of recent amendment introduced by Representative Gerald Connolly, CFS will be released if the US defense secretary certifies that “Pakistan has opened the ground lines of communication, is allowing the transit of NATO supplies through Pakistan intoAfghanistan, and is supporting the retrograde of US equipment out of Afghanistan.” Thus, none of these concerns raised by Pakistan could receive an affirmative retort in Chicago Summit.

The border crossing dispute is stuck over how much the US will pay Pakistan to allow trucks to transit its territory. Pakistan wants $5,000 per truck and an apology for the deaths in the airstrike. Before Chicago Summit the scheme for reopening the supply routes was considered, because the significance of the summit was exaggerated, but auspiciously Panetta discarded the Pakistan’s anticipated transit charges. Its is true that as U.S. presence in Afghanistan increases its demand for non-military supplies in coming years will be 200-300% more than the 2008 baseline.  To accommodate this increase and address ongoing concerns with Pakistani supply lines, U.S. planners have opened the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a series of commercially-based logistical arrangements connecting Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.  In addition to NDN, Iran and China are also considered possible transit states. Even after paying $5,000 per container to Pakistan, the cost of shipping supplies through Pakistani territory will be less than that incurred using the NDN and will take less time. Each container coming through the NDN to Afghanistan costs $14,000. About 40 to 45% of the NDN comprises sea routes, while the rest is covered through rail and road networks. The Pakistani route, on the contrary, costs $7,000, since 80 to 85% of the distance is via sea while the rest is through road. However, the US insists the $5,000 per container fee to Pakistan will surge the cost of the route and make it comparable to the NDN.
Conversely, it is not only about the money it is more about the blood, the blood of twenty-four soldiers. Opening of supply routes has now become the matter of national prestige. While the Obama administration has said it was willing to pay as much as $500 per vehicle and has expressed condolences and regret, but no apology. Moreover, U.S. has threatened Pakistan that sticking to the demand may put its ties with NATO countries at risk. Hence the Chicago Summit was less about anything else and more about US interests. The Chicago Summit, however, affirmed evidently and unequivocally the 2013 deadline for transition and the 2014 deadline for withdrawal. Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a Status of Forces Agreement with the USA that would allow its troops to stay in the country beyond the withdrawal date of 2014. The US administration wants so most likely because it is an election year, to withdraw by 2014. The USA was also not triumphant in receiving as much assistance from the members, towards the maintenance of the Afghan army and police, as would make it think safe and sound about its future. U.S. is no longer able to handle the bill on its own, but if the Obama administration is facing budgetary issues because of a financial crisis that same crisis is also being faced by other NATO governments. These states have spent enough on American goals and the USA is once again trying to have someone else pay the cost of peace, just as it tried to fight the war with someone else’s money. Besides, the USA does not want anyone to have a majority in Afghanistan.

By now it is evident that the US is unlikely to apologize for the Salala attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers or to stop Drone strikes, the two key conditions put forth by Pakistan for reopening GLOC. Our government wished to clinch the deal to earn some peace, but such hopes were dashed to the ground. However, Washington should realize and our government should make them realize Pakistan’s significance in the region. Besides other demands that should be met for smooth relations between two states, it should be also realised that unless both states achieves conclusion over Salala, the relationship cannot move forward. Apart from anything else an apology is necessary.

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