The Pentagon has expressed confidence that the United States and Pakistan would be able to find more common ground to forge close cooperative ties, as a top general acknowledged the importance of America’s relationship with the key South Asian country.
Gen James Mattis, the head of the Central Command, who recently called on Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, said Washington’s relationship with Islamabad has been vital to American security efforts in Afghanistan, despite some differences between the two countries.
“It is a crucial relationship but it’s been a challenging relationship, and it’s been prone to recriminations on both sides. But the bottom-line is that this is a critical relationship,” Mattis told US lawmakers during a testimony this week.
The Centcom chief spoke as Pakistan’s Parliament neared completion of a review to provide guidelines for future relationship with the United States following deaths of two dozen soldiers in the Nov 26, 2011 Nato air strikes on Pakistani checkposts from across the Afghan border, an incident which led to the closure of Nato supply routes and prompted a parliamentary review.
This week State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland also underlined the importance of US ties with Pakistan, saying that Washington wants to see the bilateral relationship improve.
The Pakistan-US relations were also bedevilled by a resolution introduced in the US Congress by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on Balochistan.
Islamabad strongly protested over the move. On Sunday again, Ambassador Sherry Rehman expressed serious concern at Rohrabacher’s resolution.
In a letter addressed to the US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, she that such “statements and resolutions in contravention of UN charter and international norms could undermine Pakistan-US relations”.
In February, Congressman Rohrabacher moved the resolution, calling upon Pakistan to recognise the Baloch right to self-determination. Congressman Rohrabacher, who is also the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, had earlier chaired a Congressional hearing on human rights violations in Balochistan.
The Republican Congr-essman also introduced bills calling for Dr Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA track down al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound, to be given US citizenship and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
(With additional reporting by our correspondent)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2012.