ISLAMABAD: The recent setback to Pakistan-US ties due to the Nato cross-border attack on Pakistan’s border security post and the incidents that followed, will be on top of the agenda of the strategic dialogue between the two countries later this month in Washington, highly placed sources told The Express Tribune.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and directors general of Military Operations and Military Intelligence will hold discussions with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Pentagon leaders on the issue, the source added.
The Pakistani delegation will leave for Washington on October 18 on a week-long tour to the US, said the source.
The two-day talks, which will open on October 21 in the State Department, will also focus on the issues pertaining to the Afghan war and the US-backed peace initiative of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
Islamabad’s strong reaction to the cross-border attack and the series of assaults on Nato convoys by the Taliban is a cause for concern in Washington, Western diplomatic sources said.
“There is a comprehension that the restrictions imposed by Pakistan on hundreds of Nato trucks crossing daily into Afghanistan from its territory gave an opportunity to the insurgents to set about 70 vehicles on fire,” they added.
“Washington wants to see Islamabad continue to take effective action to ensure the safety and security of Nato convoys,” the sources added.
Though many analysts believe that the strikes by unmanned US drones are carried out with the tacit approval of Islamabad, any border incursions by foreign troops is a highly sensitive issue in most of the country where anti-American sentiments run high. Islamabad has said it would consider “response options” if Nato forces continued to violate its sovereignty.
The unabated US drone attacks in the tribal regions during the last few weeks have generated public hostility against the government, which was already dealing with negative public sentiments following the sentencing of Pakistani neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui in New York. In the forthcoming strategic dialogue, the military leadership of Pakistan and the US will also discuss issues pertaining to security and US-backed talks between Kabul, Taliban and other armed opposition in Afghanistan.
Both the Afghan and the US governments have recently made contacts with the most feared insurgent group in Afghanistan, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.
In recent months, President Karzai has made a significant breakthrough in the process of peace initiatives.
While on the one hand Washington backs peace talks by Karzai with the Taliban, it continues to demand a full-scale operation against the Taliban and al Qaeda in North Waziristan on the other. Islamabad has found it difficult to comprehend the US strategy, and has largely dithered over taking any concrete measures in North Waziristan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2010.
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