Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, March 29th, 2020

Can this New Beginning Result into a Happy Ending?

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Can this New Beginning Result into a Happy Ending?

After a period of bad patch in their relations, US and Pakistan are once again trying to have a new beginning. Though they have it most of the times, they are unable to convert it into a happy ending. In the recent commitment of the new beginning both the countries have given the indications that NATO supply route through Pakistan will be re-opened after a blockade of almost 6 months and Pakistan is to be a made a part of NATO Summit in Chicago.

Recently there have been talks between the military and political leadership of both the countries regarding the issue of NATO supply route. Pentagon's press secretary has told the reporters, "We have been in discussions with the government of Pakistan for some time on the reopening of the ground lines of communication (GLOC) and we are hopeful that in the very near future they will be reopened… They are important supply routes for us.

We continue to work closely with the Pakistanis to renew a vibrant relationship that gets over some of the obstacles we faced together in the past." Victoria Nuland, State Department spokesperson, in a news conference, debating the same issue, mentioned, "We do want to see these land routes opened.

We are continuing to work on it. But we thought it was important to have them (Pakistan) at the (Chicago) summit in this partnership role… We are making progress and we will continue to work on this throughout the week.

Obviously, it will be a wonderful signal if we can get it done by the time of the summit." Pakistan has mentioned that the route will be opened after the approval from the parliament and in the greater interest of the people of Pakistan. However, it has been feeling the deficiencies of US aids that could support its declining economy.

NATO supply route was blocked by Pakistan after its military check post was hit by NATO attack in Mohmand (Pakistan) in November last year. The attack resulted in the death of 27 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan showed serious reaction to the event and took decisive steps in that regard.

It disconnected the communication channels with NATO and blocked the NATO supply routes which provided NATO with some of the basic supplies like fuel. NATO as a reaction sought to follow the northern supply route which has proved costly for them as well. Pakistan in its persistence to block the route faced reduction in the aid from US as well, but it put forward certain conditions for re-opening them.

Among the conditions, stoppage of drone attacks has been the dominant one. The public opinion in Pakistan has been vehemently against the drone attacks in the country. Certain political and religious parties have kept on using the issue for increasing the pressure on the government, and Pakistani government has insisted that drone attacks are violation of international law. However, US has not compromised over the drones. Nevertheless, it has accepted that Pakistan has the capability to play a dominant role in war against terrorism.

Pakistan has always had an important role in Afghanistan and has influenced it in some way or the other. Though, its role has not always been positive, its importance has been felt, not only to get rid of terrorism but also establishing a strong political order in Afghanistan.

US knows it and it has started to realize that it would be difficult for US to reach a conclusive end in the war without the involvement of Pakistan. NATO has invited Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, to the Chicago summit on Afghanistan. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen phoned Zardari on Tuesday(May 15) afternoon to invite him to the meeting, according to a statement from the Pakistan government and NATO.

A Pakistani spokesperson, Nadeem Hotiana, from Pakistani Embassy in Washington has said that Zardari is likely to accept the invitation. Chicago Summit is considered a very important meeting regarding the future of Afghanistan. Key decisions are expected to be made, regarding the ongoing transition period and the future support of international community for the country.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in Brussels, "This meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan and to its future… Pakistan has an important role to play in that future."

Pakistan has been considered an important player in the war against terrorism because it shares a long border with Afghanistan, around which the terrorists seem to have their safe havens. The terrorist networks on both sides of the border seem to be supporting and influencing each other and may continue to do so unless proper attention is paid to the issue. Pakistan has been urged to take extensive action against the safe havens of terrorists on their side of border, especially against the Haqqani network.

However, Pakistan has had its own reservations in this regard. It has been claiming that it has exerted its utmost in countering terrorism on its side of border and has kept on rejecting stern claims of Afghanistan and US that its spy agency has links with Haqqani network.

Whatever the claims may be, the reality is there is a sharp contrast of policies and perceptions regarding the war against terrorism; unfortunately, these contrasts are regarding the very basic issues in the war. Since the very beginning of war against terrorism, the imperative triangle – Afghanistan, US and Pakistan – has been required to have a proper shape but that has not happened the way it had to.

On some occasions US has been over aggressive while on some others Pakistan has been too much tricky. The remaining shortcomings have been fulfilled by the reluctance and corrupt attitude of Afghan authorities. This current indication that US and Pakistan may have a new beginning is really encouraging.

It is important that both the countries must exert honest efforts in this regard. It is not only both these two countries who will benefit from their improving relations but it will benefit Afghanistan as well; as most of the war is being fought in Afghanistan and the Afghan people are the ones who are influenced to the greatest extent.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at dilawar.sherzai@gmail.com

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