Backroom talks: Pak, US interlocutors labour to find middle ground

Published: May 5, 2012

Members of Grossman’s team stayed back to negotiate with Pakistani counterparts. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan and the US are working overtime to break a lingering impasse on both the resumption of vital land supply routes for Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan as well as drone strikes inside the tribal belt.

A group of US officials, comprising economic, military and intelligence experts, has quietly been in the capital since last week discussing ways out of the ongoing deadlock with Pakistani counterparts, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The US officials, whose visit has been kept away from the media glare, had already held a series of discussions with concerned authorities in Pakistan.

However, it is not yet clear if the two sides are close to striking a deal on key issues.

One Pakistan official, who was regularly briefed on the subject, revealed that the deadlock still persists primarily on two issues: An unconditional apology over last year’s Nato air strikes on Salala and a halt in the drone campaign.

He said Washington had made abundantly clear that it would not offer an unconditional apology – which is one of the main demands by Parliament. The other contentious issue is the refusal to review the CIA-led drone campaign.  “The talks are currently frozen,” added the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the subject.

The stalemate will lessen the chances of Pakistan’s participation in the Nato summit scheduled for later this month in Chicago, the official said. He maintained that a team of US officials would have more meetings over the weekend in an attempt to find some middle ground.

A US official said discussions were aimed at reopening of supply routes but did not say how much time the two sides would take to finalise a deal.

When approached, the foreign ministry did not confirm the presence of US officials in the capital or their negotiations.

However, the US Embassy confirmed that discussions were continuing. “We continue to talk together on the full range of bilateral issues. Some of the team members who came last week with Ambassador Grossman have remained here for ongoing discussions,” Mark Stroh told The Express Tribune.

Meanwhile, another civil-military huddle is expected in the next 48 hours as part of efforts to finalise a work plan for the implementation of new foreign policy terms approved by the Parliament last month.

Top civil and military leaders already have had three sessions in two weeks, but have not made any headway.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.

Reader Comments (10)

  • Polpot
    May 5, 2012 - 10:18AM

    “He said Washington had made abundantly clear that it would not offer an unconditional apology – which is one of the main demands by Parliament. The other contentious issue is the refusal to review the CIA-led drone campaign. ”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    So what are the agreements? On weather and good food?

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  • syed baqar ahsan
    May 5, 2012 - 10:37AM

    The matter of apology and drone, is no doubt a point of serious concern to every Pakistani but above all this Pakistan is also under tremendous pressure from China,Iran,Russia , Afghanistan,Uzbiks and Tajiks and stand answerable to them strategically.Therefore, mature and responsible Pakistan is a need during any type talk with USA.

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  • syed baqar ahsan
    May 5, 2012 - 10:46AM

    Americans officials are very fond of surreptitious talks, in the past it has damaged only Pakistan in its all dimensions..

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  • Imran Con
    May 5, 2012 - 11:34AM

    @syed baqar ahsan:
    Pakistan just doesn’t realize its out in the open emotional responses are self-damaging. Politics are best done in two steps.
    1. Publicly smile
    2. Privately be firm
    That way you don’t fall into the trap Pakistan is so fond of falling into. They give the people the false image of an advantageous and tough position. Just like their edited school books. It’s all a front. When it gets challenged and it crumbles like nothing, the people consider the government not only liars but also incompetent. Incompetent because they’re supposedly in this great world position and always get terrible results. When in reality, the terrible results are probably quite in line with the actual position they’re in. It’s a terrible lack of foresight and knowledge of how the world actually is outside of Pakistan’s over abundance of self serving white lies adding up.

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  • May 5, 2012 - 2:45PM

    Consensus on the issues is indispensable,
    and new strategy resolving the related matters is dire need of the time.
    Both the nuclear armed states should move forward very carefully.

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  • Parvez
    May 5, 2012 - 5:20PM

    Its hurting the American pocket and its indirectly hurting the pocket’s of our politicians in power. The Pakistani people want this to remain closed for the pleasure of seeing both sides being hurt as they know they will get nothing from this.

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  • bangash
    May 5, 2012 - 6:35PM

    @Parvez
    Pakistanis get nothing from Taliban on their territory also, why no pleasure in seeing them hurt by drone attacks ?

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  • Good decision
    May 5, 2012 - 7:19PM

    To all the deaf: read my lips – no apology and yes to drone strikes. Your next move?

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  • Cautious
    May 5, 2012 - 8:46PM

    I suppose you can always try and interject some truth into the issue – maybe starting with admitting your troops fired at the American’s first (which should eliminate the “unconditional” component of the apology) and then publicly admitting that drone attacks started with full cooperation from Pakistan authorities. The fallout over drones was the result of Pakistan leaving off the target list “strategic assets” which were attacking American’s but not Pakistanis -America decided it no longer needed the biased intel from the ISI and selected targets on it’s own. The govt and military anti American campaign has painted you into a corner you may find painful to get out of.

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  • huzaifa
    May 6, 2012 - 9:18PM

    @Cautious:
    it is abundantly clear since last some 60 years that what ever India may do she can not gain that strategic importance in the region which Pakistan has got due to it’s geo political situation. India can be used by US as a tool to counter balance Chinese posture in the region but that also temporarily. In fact, i am reffering to your very far fetched and intelligent comment that, ++++(“I suppose you can always try and interject some truth into the issue – maybe starting with admitting your troops fired at the American’s first (which should eliminate the “unconditional” component of the apology) and then publicly admitting that drone attacks started with full cooperation from Pakistan authorities”)+++++. Dear, these are Patriotic Games sort of a thing played between Pakistan and US since 60 years, you don’t have to spoil your sleep on that . In the end we sort out our affairs and life goes on but i can assure you that India can hog jump in between for self enjoyment and nothing more.

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