Even as the Nato secretary general on Friday hinted that Pakistan may not attend the Chicago summit later this month, Islamabad still expects to participate in the historic gathering to discuss the Afghan endgame.
Pakistan’s optimism stems from the fact that its ongoing negotiations with the United States appear to have made progress.
A senior Pakistani official disclosed that an agreement on the resumption of vital land routes for the Nato forces was expected to be concluded before the Chicago summit.
Islamabad’s participation in the key gathering being attended by over 60 world leaders hinges on its decision to reopen supply lines for the western forces stationed in Afghanistan.
Invite linked to Nato supplies
Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also tacitly linked Pakistan’s invitation to the Nato Chicago summit 2012 to the reopening of the supply routes through the country.
“We have invited a number of countries from the region – neighbours of Afghanistan – Central Asian countries and Russia, because they provide an important transit arrangement to the benefit of our operations,” he told a news conference in Brussels.
“But as you also know, our transit routes through Pakistan are currently blocked. So we have to continue our dialogue with Pakistan, with a view to finding a solution to that because that’s really a matter of concern,” he added, without clearly mentioning if Pakistan had been invited to the summit or not.
However, Rasmussen outlined that those countries that either participated in or significantly contributed politically or financially to Nato operations in Afghanistan (Isaf), Kosovo (KFOR) and Libya had been invited to acknowledge their respective roles.
Islamabad reminds Nato of contribution
His statement prompted Pakistan’s foreign ministry to remind Nato/Isaf of Islamabad’s contribution to peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan is in favour of an independent, sovereign, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. For almost a decade until the Salala incident Pakistan provided free transit to Nato/Isaf,” Foreign Office spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan told The Express Tribune.
He indicated that Islamabad was willing to attend the Nato summit but would not confirm or deny if a formal invitation had been extended for the purpose.
“We believe peace and stability in the region are vital national interest of Pakistan. We understand the main focus of the Nato summit is Afghanistan,” Khan added.
He went on to point out that even if Pakistan did not go to Chicago, it would continue to play its role for the peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“In recent months Pakistan has also supported a number of efforts towards reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue these efforts to contribute to an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned solution,” he said.
In Pakistan’s interest
Speaking on condition of anonymity, another official said that Pakistan was keen to attend the Nato summit as it would provide an opportunity to put across its point of view for the future of Afghanistan.
“It is not only in our interest that Pakistan should go to Chicago but also in the interest of the United States,” the official remarked.
He said Washington had long been calling for a regional solution to the Afghan problem. “Russia has already announced it is not going to Chicago, China has not been invited and if Pakistan is also kept out, then the whole idea of a regional solution will be defeated,” the official argued.
When contacted, an American diplomat was confident that both sides would be able to resolve their differences before the Nato summit paving way for Pakistan’s participation.
However, he acknowledged that Pakistan’s attendance would depend on whether the six-month-old blockade on the Nato supplies was lifted.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.