The efforts are once again on the way to make the relations between NATO and Pakistan work. General John Allen, top US commander in Afghanistan is expected to visit Islamabad on Wednesday, June 26, to negotiate over the resumption of NATO supply routes. There have been attempts by both the countries to make the negotiations over the supply routes successful, but no tangible outcome has been achieved in this regard.
NATO supply routes were 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.
Even on the current reports of the initiation of negotiation regarding the NATO supply routes, different protests have been lodged in Peshawar, Karachi and other cities of Pakistan. 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.
US and NATO's deteriorating relations with Pakistan are also influencing AfPak relations and vice versa. Currently, there is a border issue testing the AfPak relations. On many occasions Afghanistan has claimed that terrorists from Pakistani side of border enter Afghanistan and bring harm to civilians and the security forces.
Likewise, on certain occasions Pakistan has claimed that the terrorists from Afghan side of border move to Pakistan. The current issue has been raised after Pakistan lodged a serious protest with NATO and Afghan forces, a couple of days earlier, on the cross-border attacks, which Pakistan claims were carried out byaround 100insurgents who had moved from Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar and had killed 7 Pakistani soldiers.
However, the governor of Kunar, FazlullahWahidi, has rejected the claims and has said that the attackers belonged to Pakistan. NATO says that it is aware of the report but does not have the relevant information. However, it is sure that the issue is going to keep the relations tense for some time to come and would be pursued through blame-game and no serious consideration.
Nonetheless, it is expected that on Wednesday, US and Pakistan may be able to move ahead to break the deadlock in the negotiations. In fact, the opening of supply route will benefit both NATO and Pakistan, even if both of them reject it. For NATO, following the northern trade routes would be very much expensive and it would require time before the required agreements are made with the relevant countries. For Pakistan, it would be useful for it would make some income for it.
Though, not much related to the NATO supply route, Pakistan in a recent decision has agreed to allow Afghan importers to move their goods from Karachi port without bank guarantee. This shows that Pakistan wants to make maximum use of its port and the supply routes to Afghanistan. Therefore, it is possible that NATO and Pakistan may come to some sort of agreement regarding the routes.
An effort was made in the Chicago summit last month in the same regard. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was invited in the summit at the last moment so as to let him know the concerns about the blocked supply routes. However, the effort was not result oriented and failed to make any important change in the situation.
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. Both the countries need to play their roles in their own side of borders and try to avoid playing a blame-game. The border issue can only be solved when there are efforts from both sides plus NATO.
The solution does not lie in the negligence of the truth; rather it is in facing the truth boldly and trying to find out proper solution to the problems. Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot pass the buck and claim that they are doing enough. They both need to do more and at the same time, they need to cooperate with each other to reach tangible solutions. Otherwise, both will be influenced by the growing terrorism in the region to a large extent.
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, all the three countries - Afghanistan, US and Pakistan, have been required to play their due responsibilities 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 so. 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 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.