Islamabad and Washington will soon formally sign a new agreement to regulate trucks carrying supplies for Nato troops in Afghanistan, the Foreign Office said on Thursday.
The vital overland routes reopened last week under old arrangements after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised on July 3 for the botched US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan told reporters at his weekly news briefing that Pakistan and the United States had almost completed technical discussions, and officials were now consulting with their respective authorities to finalise the new accord.
“We are quite hopeful that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed shortly,” the spokesman said.
The government decided to scrap the Musharraf-era war on terror agreements with the United States following the botched US strikes on Pakistani checkpoints near the border with Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, Islamabad lifted the seven-month old blockade before formally signing the MoU on Nato supply routes, a move attributed to intense pressure exerted by the US, and mediation by countries such as the UK and Saudi Arabia.
However, the spokesman dispelled the impression that Islamabad bowed to US pressure on the issue of Nato supply routes. Khan pointed out that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khan and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a ‘positive interaction’ on the sidelines of an international conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo.
“During the meeting, the US Secretary of State stated in clear terms that the US respected Pakistani sovereignty and wanted a well-defined and long-term partnership with Islamabad,” the spokesperson said.
Khan also insisted that Pakistan had shut down supply lines on the principle of sovereignty, not for any money or financial gains, adding that there was a strong desire on both sides to take bilateral relations forward for world and regional peace. As part of those efforts, he said the visit of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to Washington was under consideration.
Corps commanders’ meeting
Meanwhile, top military commanders huddled at the Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on Thursday to discuss regional security, including the recent breakthrough in ties with the United States. The corps commanders’ meeting was chaired by army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who briefed the meeting about his recent talks with Gen John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan.
The commanders also discussed cross-border incursions by Pakistani militants, who had found refuge in Afghanistan. According to sources, Kayani informed his commanders about progress that had been made to ensure was no repeat of a Salala like incident.
The two countries are currently negotiating a mechanism, which according to one Pakistani official, will ensure better border coordination to help prevent any untoward incidents in the future.
The corps commanders’ conference will continue today (Thursday) when it takes up the task of promoting brigadiers to the rank of major generals.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.
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