By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, July 3 : Putting an end to a seven-month deadlock in bilateral relations, the United States on Tuesday said sorry over deaths of Pakistani soldiers in Salala incident, with the top American diplomat Hillary Clinton saying Islamabad is restoring it’s key supply routes into Afghanistan, closed since November 2011 incident.
Islamabad now has a great opportunity to foster a better trade and economic relationship with the United States to bring fast-paced development to its teeming millions, still in the backwaters. The goodwill created by Islamabad’s gesture to allow NAATO supplies through its routes without levying any additional transit charges should help propel the important relationship.
The unsavory episodes of the past few years including unilateral American actions amply demonstrate tit is going to be a combination of the mutuality of interests and reciprocity in actions that will help the two nations overcome mistrust of the past and move forward like allies that they have been on some important occasions in the past several decades.
Overcoming nagging energy shortfalls – which add to citizens’ woes in sweltering heat and dampen high economic growth prospects – and trade expansion should be the key words for Pakistan as it restores a full spectrum of relations with Washington. The U.S., for its part, should accord a longs-ought preferential trade access program for its ally.
American and Pakistani experts agree that a cooperative relation should benefit both countries. While the United States needs to give ownership of some controversial counterterrorism methods including drones to Pakistan, Islamabad needs to work earnestly to bring peace to Afghanistan and extend governance to its tribal areas, where militants, pushed by the US invasion of Afghanistan about 11 years ago, have found a refuge and have been targeting everyone including Pakistanis, Afghans and Americans.
Addressing Islamabad’s concerns over cross-border movement of anti-Pakistani militants will also be greatly helpful.
The developments came to light, when In a telephonic call to Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, the US Secretary of State hailed Islamabad’s decision not to impose any transit fee on NATO supplies. She described it as the country’s “substantial demonstration” of the country’s support for peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.
While expressing a sense of remorse over Pakistani losses in the cross-border aerial strikes, Secretary Clinton said in a statement that Washington is “committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again. “
“I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military, Clinton said.
The American chief diplomat struck a number of notes of interest to Pakistan in the statement including respect for Pakistani sovereignty, enduring partnership, appreciation for Pakistani sacrifices and cooperation in trade and development areas.
The restoration of Pakistani supply lines – closed since the Salala incident on November 26 last year – is likely to be received with praise by the Obama Administration as it was paying a high cost for transporting supplies into Afghanistan via a much longer and expensive network of northern routes.
The closure of Pakistan routes meant the US had to rely on several countries including Russia and Central Asian states for conduct of its Afghan mission. The Pentagon has already requested transfer of as much as 2.1 billion dollars from various heads to meet exorbitant transportation costs of supplies through airlift and northern distribution network. According to Defense Secretary Panetta the use of northern routes alone were costing Washington $ 100 million a month in extra expenditures.
The Obama Administration is also on notice to show some degree of progress vis-à-vis ground situation in Afghanistan as well as on planned withdrawal of American troops – to be completed by 2014 NATO-set deadline- in the politically charged presidential election year.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, who has been reaching out to American lawmakers to convey her country’s perspective on various issues, on Tuesday appreciated Secretary Clinton’s statement, and expressed he hope that “bilateral ties can move to a better place from here.”
“I am confident that both countries can agree on many critical issues, especially on bringing peace to the region, ” Ambassador Rehman said in a statement released by the embassy.
Ambassador Rehman said : “Today, as we announce the opening of the GLOC, I am glad that this breakthrough is not part of any transaction. We are playing our role as responsible global partner in stabilizing the region.”
Experts says the development represents an other opportunity for Pakistan to make use of its partnership with Washington to step up the country’s economic development, overcome energy crisis and secure some of its long-term interests in the region.
Clinton, in her statement, noted that America “respects Pakistan’s sovereignty and is committed to working together in pursuit of shared objectives on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.”
The American diplomat said Foreign Minister Khar and she talked about the “importance of taking coordinated action against terrorists who threaten Pakistan, the United States, and the region; of supporting Afghanistan’s security, stability, and efforts towards reconciliation; and of continuing to work together to advance the many other shared interests we have, from increasing trade and investment to strengthening our people-to-people ties.”
“Our countries should have a relationship that is enduring, strategic, and carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of both our nations and the region,” she noted.
According to the statement, the two diplomats were reminded that “our troops – Pakistani and American – are in a fight against a common enemy. “
“ We are both sorry for losses suffered by both our countries in this fight against terrorists. We have enhanced our counter-terrorism cooperation against terrorists that threaten Pakistan and the United States, with the goal of defeating Al-Qaida in the region,” Clinton said in the statement released by the State Department.
“In addition, I am pleased that Foreign Minister Khar has informed me that the ground supply lines (GLOC) into Afghanistan are opening. Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.
“This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region. “
“ This will also help the United States and ISAF conduct the planned drawdown at a much lower cost. This is critically important to the men and women who are fighting terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan.
“Foreign Minister Khar has informed me that, consistent with current practice, no lethal equipment will transit the GLOC into Afghanistan except for equipping the ANSF. In concluding the call, I reiterated our deep appreciation to the Government and the people of Pakistan for their many sacrifices and their critical contribution to the ongoing fight against terrorism and extremism.”
- Text of Clinton statement on Pakistan (kansascity.com)
- Meeting DCC decides to reopen Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs) – Associated Press of Pakistan (app.com.pk)
- You: No secret deal with US: Khar (nation.com.pk)
- No ‘secret deal’ with the US: FM Khar (dawn.com)