Top military commanders from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nato met on Sunday to discuss contentious issues, almost six months after a deadly US air raid killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Mohmand Agency which had put the Pak-US ties in a tailspin.
The Rawalpindi huddle was significant as it came only days before a key Nato summit in Chicago where Pakistan’s invitation, according to Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, hinges on its decision on the Nato supply routes which it has blocked since the air raid.
Gen John Allen, Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Afghan military commander Gen Sher Muhammad Karimi led their respective delegations at a meeting of the Tripartite Commission.
“Talks focused on border control measures, and mechanisms put in place to avoid untoward incidents on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border,” said a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Gen Allen said he was ‘very encouraged’ by the talks.
“There was agreement these meetings are important to achieving continued progress towards … a peaceful Afghanistan so that Afghanistan can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists,” Allen said, according to an Isaf statement.
A Pakistan military official requesting anonymity described the talks held in the garrison city of Rawalpindi as significant, adding that the discussions lasted for ‘several hours’.
The official told The Express Tribune that Gen Allen discussed the Salala incident in detail and also discussed steps to ensure that such incidents do not take place in the future.
The issue of Nato supply routes also came up for discussion. The official maintained that the US wanted Pakistan to take an early decision to lift the six-month-old blockade on vital land routes for western forces stationed in Afghanistan.
“The impact of the continued suspension is now taking its toll on the foreign forces in Afghanistan,” said another official, who also claimed that the US had now threatened to block all financial aid if supplies were not reopened.
The official acknowledged that Pakistan might succumb to intense pressure on the reopening of Nato supply lines without receiving an unconditional public apology from the US for last year’s Nato attack.
Pakistan is expected to take a final decision whether to resume the supplies next week when the Defence Committee of the Cabinet meets to discuss the issue.
The decision would eventually pave the way for Pakistan’s participation in the Chicago summit which is to discuss the Afghan endgame. Diplomats on both sides have been keen to resolve the impasse between Islamabad and Washington before the summit on May 21-22.
“I don’t think Pakistan will miss this opportunity,” the official said, indicating Islamabad’s eagerness to attend the historic gathering.
Sunday’s parleys were followed by face-to-face talks between Gen Kayani and Gen Allen on how to improve security in volatile areas bordering the two countries. (with Additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2012.