A day after parliament approved the new foreign policy framework of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on relations with United States, Pakistan and the US were planning high-level talks in the days ahead to reset their fragile alliance.
As part of a series of interactions, US President Barack Obama’s Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman will visit Islamabad to discuss the new recommendations passed by the PCNS with the country’s political and military leadership, diplomatic sources said. Grossman will be the first senior American official to visit Pakistan after parliament voted on the new policy, paving the way for re-engagement between the two countries.
Islamabad earlier refused to host the diplomat to show its displeasure over the Nato airstrikes in November 2011 that killed 24 soldiers. In addition to discussing the PCNS guidelines, Grossman will also lay down the groundwork for talks between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in the coming weeks, a foreign office official stated. Khar is likely to travel to Washington after the visit of Grossman, the official added.
However, according to another official, a proposal was also under consideration for Clinton’s visit to Pakistan. “The venue and dates for the talks are being discussed at the moment,” the official claimed. The main agenda of the talks would be to discuss the reopening of Nato supply lines and accommodate Pakistan’s concerns on drone strikes, in addition to a host of other issues.
Though the new recommendations did not explicitly mention the issue of suspended supplies, there is no indication yet when the government plans to take a final decision to lift the blockade. However, officials said the reopening of vital land routes for Nato supplies hinges on the outcome of planned talks between the two countries. The government expects Washington to offer a formal public apology over the airstrikes before it announces the resumption of supply lines.
Meanwhile, a US delegation led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah in its meeting with Khar was guarded in its reaction to the new policy terms approved by parliament. “They were cautious in welcoming the new recommendations,” said a participant of the meeting. According to an official statement, Khar said Pakistan wanted to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the US, claiming the parliamentary process had established a public ownership of this relationship.
Shah reiterated that the US fully respected the parliamentary process and it would continue to build on its multifaceted relationship with Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.