After weeks of tension, Pakistan and the US have agreed to sign a new deal under which the Nato supply routes through the country will resume. This deal will hold through till December 2015, with the option of being renewed for a further year. In many ways this is good news, ending the controversy that had broken out since the Salala incident in November last year, where over a dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed in an air attack from across the Afghan border. Given the levels of rising instability seen since then, it was crucial that things be sorted out. This time, in doing so, Pakistan has been able to assert its own demands to a far greater extent than in the past. Against a hugely powerful ally this marks a big success.
The deal, negotiated by officials from both countries involved an apology from the US for the Salala incident, which has already been made. Pakistan has dropped its demand for a transit fee in exchange for the release of long-term payments and stipulated that arms and ammunition not be transported through its territory. It will also offer security to the Nato vehicles, but not take responsibility for any losses that may incur. No warehouse facilities are to be offered and both the northern route through Torkham and the southern route through Chaman will be opened. The transparency in the details of the deal, which has been approved by the federal cabinet, also breaks with the past and is welcome.
The deal should help clear up many matters. At the least, it lets people know exactly where relations stand. At the moment, Nato vehicles are stranded at both Torkham and Chaman. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The provincial governments have already sought help from the centre. The new agreement should help clear up the logjams on the two borders.
It is obvious that we needed to bring ties with the US back on an even keel. While Pakistan must strive for sovereignty, this can only be attained one step at a time and this agreement marks an important step forward towards this goal.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.