As one would have expected, the Nato summit in Chicago seems to have run into quite a few hiccups, especially as far as Pakistan and America are concerned. Their bilateral relationship has, of late, been clouded by the Nato supply routes closure issue and it seems that leaving it unresolved was perhaps not such a good idea for Islamabad. President Asif Ali Zardari met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the body language that could be seen in the photographs of the meeting was one that showed the Pakistani side playing on a relatively weak wicket. The message sent to Pakistan is clear: either open the Nato supply routes immediately or prepare to face the consequences. More than a billion dollars in coalition support fund rest on our playing ball with the US, while reopening the supply routes will allow us to earn around one million dollars a day in tolls and fees.
For now, the main sticking point appears to be an apology for the Salala attacks. At this point, Pakistan should try and understand that it is unlikely to receive any apology. This is a presidential year in the US and Obama has already been slammed by his opponent Mitt Romney for always apologising for America. An apology for Salala will only make Obama seem weaker and unfortunately Pakistan will have to bear the brunt of this reality. The other outstanding issue is drone attacks. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security demanded an end to drone attacks as a precondition for reopening Nato supply routes. This, too, is an exercise in futility, not least because several drone strikes have taken place in recent weeks following the committee declaring its demands. Drones, America says, are a key feature of its war on the militants, and are feared as such by the latter. So perhaps, what Pakistan can demand is joint ownership or a joint monitoring mechanism. Besides, had we not allowed the sanctuaries to exist in parts of Fata and had shown the will to take them out, perhaps we wouldn’t have had to deal with the drones issue in the first place. We should realise that time is running out and that the rest of the world will move on, without us if it needs to. The endgame in Afghanistan has already been set into motion and Pakistan will find itself cut off and isolated should it not be open to compromise.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.
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