ISLAMABAD: Pakistani diplomats serving in key world capitals have tried to calm down the government over its ‘kneejerk’ reaction to last month’s Nato airstrikes that killed two dozen troops.
Over two dozen ambassadors and high commissioners, who were called to the foreign ministry for urgent deliberations to review ties with the US, on Monday urged the government to immediately reopen supply routes for Nato forces, a participant told The Express Tribune.
The senior diplomats argued that the country’s foreign policy should be based on strategy, not sentiment. “We need to have a long-term relationship with the US,” said an official who asked not to be named. “The policy based on emotionalism is not the solution,” he added.
A top foreign ministry official echoed this view. “There is a sense that Pakistan’s foreign policy should be aligned to its long-term security and development needs,” he said. “We want good relations with all countries and unless relations are based on mutual benefit and mutual trust these cannot be sustained.”
The views expressed by the country’s top diplomatic authorities were in stark contrast to the tough stance taken by the government as well as the military establishment in the aftermath of the Nato attacks.
It is unclear if the government will heed their call, as Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Sunday indicated that Nato supplies could remain suspended for weeks.
There was no official word on the opening day of the conference. When approached, foreign ministry spokesperson Abdul Basit refused to comment on the proceedings. The concluding session will be chaired by the prime minister, after which more concrete decisions are expected to take shape.
The ambassadors were summoned as part of the government announcement to rewrite the terms of engagement with the US, following the Nato raid that plunged the already fragile alliance between Islamabad and Washington into a deeper crisis.
On the first-day of the conference, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Khalid Shameem Wynne and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha briefed the participants.
In his briefing, Hafeez Sheikh warned that complete disassociation with the US would be a “blunder” and would certainly have a negative impact on the country’s fragile economy.
“Though economic indicators are positive, that doesn’t mean we can afford a breakdown in our relationship with the US,” Sheikh was quoted as saying by the official.
General Pasha told the participants that the November 26 attacks on Pakistani check posts reflected “frustration on the part of the US over their lack of success in Afghanistan.” The ISI chief argues that the Americans “have yet to reconcile with the ground realities of the region.”
According to a source, Pasha informed the conference that the US would have to work with Pakistan if it wishes to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
However, after the ISI chief and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff left the meeting, some of the envoys criticised the military’s assessment and approach to dealing with the current situation.
The two-day conference will conclude today (Tuesday).
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2011.