WASHINGTON, June 14 : Stressing the importance of positive relationship between the United States and Pakistan, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has said the U.S. should apologize to the key regional country over Salala incident mistakes.
Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued at a Congressional hearing that a U.S. apology would help ease tensions in the bilateral relations and resolve the issue of Pakistani supply routes.
Pakistan closed its crucial border crossings for NATO supplies into Afghanistan after the November 26, 2011 cross-border aerial strikes that led to deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers
The comments by Feinstein follow some hectic diplomacy by Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman at a time of difficult climate on the Capitol Hill in the face of continued closure of Pakistani land routes and sentencing of Dr Shakil Afraid
Senator Feinstein’s argument coincided with failure of a move by Senator Paul Rand tattach an amendment to a legislation that would have halted all aid for Pakistan until the South Asian country freed Dr Afridi, who worked for CIA to trace whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Although Ambassador Rehman and her team of diplomats were able to get the move blocked through intense lobbying with lawmakers on the Hill, Congressional sources indicated more such legislative bids should be expected in the upcoming days.
“You raised the question of the GLOCs (ground lines of communication). It is my information that Pakistan wants, most of all, some civilian announcement that mistakes were made on our side — and I think mistakes were made on their side as well, as I’ve looked into this — and that the GLOC problem could be solved.”
During the hearing, Panetta told lawmakers that that the closure of Pakistani routes for transporting NATO supplies into landlocked Afghanistan is costing an extra $ 100 million a month.
In her remarks, Senator Feinstein understood that Pakistan would lower the cost of NATO supplies passage, “but the apology is all-important.”
“The national security of this nation is best served if we can develop a positive relationship with Pakistan — and both you and I and others know what the road has been — and that there might be an opportunity to make a change in that direction, particularly with the new head of ISI, as well as some other things.”
“So my question of you, and my — I guess my lack of understanding is why there can’t be some form of statement that in essence says if it’s believed — I have to believe it — that mistakes were made on both sides, and of course the United States apologizes for any mistakes that we made, and we have taken steps to correct that and see that it will never happen again,” Diane Feinstein asked Leon Panetta.
In response to the Californian senator’s question, Panetta described the U.S. relations with Pakistan as necessary.
Panetta, whose criticism of Pakistan last week from Kabul added to lingering tensions in US-Pakistan relations, acknowledged that the U.S. made mistakes during the Nov 26 cross-border incident.
“It’s a complicated relationship, but it’s also a necessary relationship by virtue of our security needs in that area,” Panetta said.
The U.S. defense secretary said the two sides are still discussing the issue of Pakistani land routes.
“The — this is an issue that is still under negotiation. There are discussions that continue with regards to how we can resolve this. The issue (apology) you discussed is one of those areas. I think General Allen — the United States has made clear that mistakes were made and they were made on our side; they were also made on the Pakistani side — and that we expressed condolences for the mistakes that were made. We’ve made that clear, and we certainly, you know, have continued to make clear the mistakes that were made.”
Panetta also said at the hearing that the Pakistanis are asking not only for apology, but there are other elements of the negotiation that are also involved that have to be resolved to see resumption of supplies through Pakistani routes.
“So it isn’t — that alone isn’t the only issue that’s being discussed and that needs to be resolved in order to get the GLOCs opened.”
Sources: MGCT, Senate, Pakistan Embassy
- Afghanistan War: Closed Pakistan Routes Costing U.S. $100 Million a Month (abcnews.go.com)
- Apology still at issue between U.S. and Pakistan (security.blogs.cnn.com)
- Pentagon chief urges conditions for Pakistan aid (dawn.com)
- Panetta Backs Conditions For Pakistani Aid (rferl.org)