ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States appear to have made progress in normalising their fragile relationship, with clear signs emerging on Friday both from Islamabad and Washington that the two countries were moving closer to resolving their differences on key issues.
Senior foreign ministry officials testified before the Senate’s foreign relations committee that ties between Pakistan and the US would be back on track in the “next few months”. The meeting between Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and his US counterpart Michael Morell was described as ‘positive’, an account corroborated by US officials in Washington.
“Things are heading in the right direction and the relations are expected to be normalised fully in the next few months,” said Senator Salim Saifullah Khan, the head of the Senate’s foreign relations committee.
Senator Saifullah told reporters here that Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar informed the committee that the differences between Pakistan and the US on certain issues “would be resolved soon.”
Relations between the two key allies in the war against terrorism hit a new low last week when the US withheld $800 million in military assistance to punish Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and launched a crackdown against the private CIA network in the country in the aftermath of the Abbottabad raid.
Khar confirmed that the aid was suspended over Islamabad’s move to compel Washington to pull out almost 150 military trainers. She is reported to have said that, of the suspended $800 million in aid, about $500 million was meant for the US trainers. She expressed the hope that the remaining $300 million would be released soon.
The committee directed the foreign ministry to submit details about the presence of US military personnel in Pakistan. It also urged the authorities to enter into written agreements with the US on counter-terrorism in order to avoid any ambiguity between the two countries.
The panel raised its concern over the use of a remote airbase in Balochistan by US forces. “The Shamsi airbase should not be allowed to be used by any foreign country,” said Senator Salim Saifullah.
The airbase was believed to be the key launching pad for the CIA’s drone campaign inside the country’s tribal belt. However, the government insists that airfield was used only for surveillance by the US.
Meanwhile, ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja wrapped up his trip to Washington, where he held crucial talks with the acting CIA chief.
An intelligence official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that the talks went well between the two.
Pasha’s visit to Washington was brief: he arrived on Wednesday and left on Thursday. He met with Acting CIA Director Michael Morell and other US intelligence officials. Both sides sought to renew ties of cooperation and move forward in an often challenging relationship.
“The discussions today between Lt Gen Pasha and the acting director of the CIA went very well,” a US official said on condition of anonymity. “They agreed on a number of steps that will improve Pakistani and US national security,” the official said, without disclosing any more details. A senior official at the Pakistani embassy in Washington said the meetings helped stabilise the intelligence partnership.
“Both sides were able to agree on the way forward in intelligence,” the Pakistani official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “This visit has put the intelligence component back on track.”
Pasha had also been expected to meet with the heads of congressional intelligence committees during this visit, but the meeting did not happen because of time constraints, a US source familiar with the visit said.
(With additional input from Reuters)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ