Pakistan-US ties: Leaders huddle, but fail to move forward

Published: May 3, 2012

The huddle came within hours of another meeting of the troika – the president, the premier and the army chief – to discuss the ‘regional security situation’.


The impasse on resumption of ties with the United States lies on two fronts – between Islamabad and Washington, and between Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The country’s top political and military leadership appears to be in a fix on how to move forward to repair troubled ties with the US after Washington’s reluctance to apologise over last year’s Salala attacks, and halting drone strikes.

The civilian and military leaders met for a third time, in two weeks, but crucial decisions, including reopening of land routes for Nato supplies and attending a Nato summit in Chicago later this month, were deferred.

“The situation is as it was two weeks ago … there isn’t any change on both sides,” said a participant of Wednesday’s meeting presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI’s Director General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, key federal ministers and Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman attended the meeting that lasted several hours.

Obama’s surprise trip

The huddle came within hours of another meeting of the troika – the president, the premier and the army chief – to discuss the ‘regional security situation’.

More importantly, the meeting took place a day after the US and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership deal that would allow Americans to maintain military presence in the war-torn country beyond 2014, even after the completion of the combat mission.

President Barack Obama flew into Kabul in dead of Tuesday night, on an unscheduled trip, to meet his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai.

One official attempted to play down the development, insisting it was long due, and Islamabad was in the loop.

“It doesn’t come as surprise for us … we were briefed on it by both the US and Afghanistan,” claimed the official, who wished not to be named. He added that Washington had not only invited Islamabad to attend the Nato summit scheduled for May 20 – 21 in Chicago, but also offered to host a trilateral summit of US-Pak-Afghan leaders on the sidelines.

Divergent domestic interests

No decisions were made at Wednesday’s meeting, however, due to divergent approach taken by the stakeholders.

While the military leadership was pushing for an early decision, the civilian authorities were keen to first get out of the brewing crisis emanating from the prime minister’s conviction by the Supreme Court last week, an insider said.

Nonetheless, there was willingness on both sides to move beyond the Salala incident and break months of impasse, another official said.

“It is election year here and in the US … that is what is making things complex,” commented a diplomat.

Last week, a US delegation headed by Obama’s point-man for the region, Marc Grossman, flew back to Washington without any progress after both sides refused to step back from their maximalist positions.

Islamabad wanted Washington to apologise over the Salala attack and give firm guarantees that the drone campaign would be called off. After Wednesday’s meeting, it appears that Pakistan is not ready to soften its position on both issues, and the deadlock might persist for some more time.

(Read: Resetting Pakistan-US engagement)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Arijit Sharma
    May 3, 2012 - 6:05AM

    These are exercises in futility between a protagonist and an antagonist.


  • Raj - USA
    May 3, 2012 - 6:21AM

    One can only laugh at the wisdom of PML-N that wanted to include three additional conditions for reseting Pakistan / US ties. These three additional conditions were:
    (1) US should free Afia Sidiqi
    (2) US should resolve Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India.
    (3) US should provide nuclear technology to Pakistan on the same terms as India.


  • Kaalchakra
    May 3, 2012 - 7:25AM

    Pakistan has to be very careful. Politicians come and go. The permanent institution must protect and maintain Pakistan’s strategic interests at a deep level.


  • Cautious
    May 3, 2012 - 7:39AM

    The USA’s positions on these matters was well known before your Parliament made it’s list of demands — why should it be any surprise that the USA isn’t caving in? You didn’t allow for any wiggle room and I suspect the end result will be that the NATO supply line remains closed and the relationship between Pakistan and the USA will further deteriorate. At some point in time the USA may ask whether having Pakistan as a “friend” is worth all the trouble – it would be easier to manage their relationship with India without the baggage of Pakistan.


  • May 3, 2012 - 7:45AM

    Its all about pros and cons for the US.

    Pros: Drones kill a LOT of terrorists with absolutely no loss of life in the NATO side; Northern Distribution Network works but not as effectively as the Pakistani route; Apologizing to a power known to shelter US’s enemies like Osama is embarrassing and potentially catastrophic in an election year; With no route over Pakistan, US doesn’t have to pour Billions into Pakistan, US taxpayer’s money is saved; Pakistan loses the ONLY leverage it has over the US.

    Cons: NDN is costly; Equipement shortage.

    I can’t think of only 2 cons here. Those who are expecting US to apologize, just ask yourself why would it do that, when its own investigative report says Pakistanis fired at them first?


  • Adeel759
    May 3, 2012 - 7:48AM

    Now you feel democracy at work. Its not a dictatorial regime that one can decide the destiny of 200 million on just One Fone Call. No doubt about their corruption and ill governance but they are keeping the people’s aspirations in mind when making critical decisions. Democracy Reigns.Recommend

  • syed baqar ahsan
    May 3, 2012 - 7:49AM

    @Arijit Sharma:
    what do mean by that


  • Babloo
    May 3, 2012 - 8:08AM

    “While the military leadership was pushing for an early decision,..”

    So what happened to the great defiance ? Its the military pushing for capitulation on the demands that the military encouraged like drone strikes be stopped, apology etc before NATO transport routes open. Now they want the civilians to take the blame and save face.


  • H.A. Khan
    May 3, 2012 - 8:18AM

    Unfortunately Pakistan over played it’s cards. Once again the shallowness of Foreign policy is proved.

    At present Pakistan needs to adopt a pragmatic FP. We need peace in the region and we need massive funds for infrastructure development and budgetary support.

    By the way, what happened to “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” and all the financial support that was going to come.?!


  • ayesha_khan
    May 3, 2012 - 8:24AM

    “While the military leadership was pushing for an early decision, the civilian authorities were keen to first get out of the brewing crisis emanating from the prime minister’s conviction by the Supreme Court last week, an insider said.”

    There already is a decision. A unanimous decision by PCNS i.e. Supply routes restart if US apologizes, agrees to stop drones and pay more taxes. US has already made its decision. It will not stop drones and not apologize. This just is not the decision that Kayani wants. I hope that the people who accuse government of being corrupt are able to see that approval for drones was given by one military man and the desire to restart without Us willingness to stop drones is being pushed by another general. PM cannot and should not take an executive decision of this magnitude when his right to be a PM itself is under question, so PPP is right to not reverse the Parliamentary decision.


  • Zaleem Singh
    May 3, 2012 - 10:19AM

    Pakistan is nothing in front of US

    India has very good ties with the US
    and Pakistani General- Kayani should
    resign from the post ASAP.


  • G.A.
    May 7, 2012 - 3:32PM

    The presence of Pakistan’s enemies on the battle grounds is a things known to everyone but now here seems to be an other developed campaign against us by our enemies even over Pakistan’s national news stories…It all looks evident from the number of foreign commentators here, all of their remarks shows their own state policies against Pakistan.


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