Indefinitely delaying the much-anticipated reengagement process between the two allies, Pakistan and the US have ended up in a deadlock over the issue of a public apology for last year’s deadly Nato airstrike.
The formal apology is one of the key preconditions set by Pakistan’s parliament to revive cooperation with the US and reopen Nato supply routes blocked since the airstrike at Salala which killed two dozen Pakistan Army soldiers.
However, Pakistani officials have now disclosed that Washington is reluctant to accept the demand.
The apparent hesitation on part of the Obama administration to tender a public apology over the incident has led to a stalemate, said a Pakistani diplomat, familiar with the development.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomat added that Washington had earlier displayed signs of ‘willingness’ to apologise but President Barrack Obama’s public ratings, in an election year, appear to have forced the administration to rethink its decision.
The recent attacks in Kabul, blamed on the Haqqani network, have also complicated the situation and made it difficult for Obama to take such a step at a time when his political rivals are calling for a tough action against Pakistan.
In an attempt to find a midway, the White House was planning to send veteran Democrat Senator John Kerry to Pakistan but the visit was postponed after Islamabad apparently refused to accept his apology.
“Our position is that we want the White House to make the apology,” said another official.
He said the two sides were trying to break the impasse and the issue would come up for discussions during the upcoming visit of US special representative for the region Marc Grossman, who is expected to arrive here today (Wednesday) on a two-day trip.
Despite repeated attempts, foreign ministry spokesperson Moazam Ali Khan could not be reached for an official reaction over this development.
The US Embassy also refused to comment on the specifics.
“The US is ready to engage with Pakistan on all issues when it is ready for discussions,” said an American diplomat.
His remarks appear to suggest that Pakistan has not yet made up its mind to revive cooperation with the US in the light of the new recommendations approved by parliament.
Recently, US Ambassador Cameron Munter said his country was eager to resume cooperation with Pakistan but would not accept all of its demands.
Officials said the government had put on hold the process after US reservations surfaced on the issue of the formal apology.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.