CHICAGO - Pakistan has reiterated its call for US apology over Salala attacks and an end to controversial drone strikes into its tribal areas to pave the way for rebuilding frayed bilateral relationship.
Islamabad’s ambassador to the United States wrote in an opinion piece – timed to appear at the start of a crucial NATO summit on the future of Afghanistan – that Pakistan has taken the first step to work towards reopening supply routes for US-allied forces in Afghanistan, and now Washington should take a series of confidence building measures to improve the ties.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman argued in the writing published in The Chicago Tribune that restoration of normalcy in Pakistan-US relations would deliver a death blow to extremism afflicting the region.
The NATO summit, being attended by President Asif Ali Zardari, aims at garnering support for peace and stability in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when security responsibility is fully transferred to Kabul at the end of a long war, which has seriously hurt Pakistan.
Pakistan closed the routes for NATO following November 26 American war plane attacks on two border posts, which resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and soured the already sagging public opinion.
The NATO summit in Chicago will focus on the endgame in Afghanistan on the heels of US House debate on bills that will shape the nature of the US-Pakistan relationship, Rehman noted.
“The tone of this debate and the diplomacy of the Obama administration will send a clear signal to the 180 million people of Pakistan as to whether the world’s oldest democracy will stand with one of the world’s newest democracies to defeat terrorism and extremism for a politically stable and economically viable South Asia. Many are pessimistic.”
Stressing the importance of a series of confidence-building measures that could recast the bilateral relationship, the ambassador wrote “if the war against extremism is to succeed, the war of words between democratic allies must end.”
Rehman pointed out that the unilateral raid on Abbottabad, the Raymond Davis CIA provocation, the US-led NATO air assault in Salala that tragically killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the continuing unauthorised drone attacks on Pakistani soil frayed 60-year special relationship between the two countries.
Significant progress could be made toward resetting the relationship between our countries if the US were to finally apologize for the battlefield deaths at Salalah, she emphasized.
The United States should reimburse the Coalition Support Funds — US repayments to Pakistan for the cost of battling terrorism — owed to Pakistan, a very small part of the $78 billion that Pakistan has lost on account of the war against extremism since 2001.
Washington should also increase the sharing of counterterrorism intelligence to assist Pakistan military in combating extremism and cease the controversial drone operations that violate Pakistani sovereignty and the norms of international law.
On the economic front, the ambassador called for shifting to a policy of ‘trade not aid’ by providing enhanced access to US markets for Pakistan’s exports. “These game-changing steps would serve as a deathblow to extremist expansion in the region.” The ambassador reaffirmed Islamabad’s desire for responsibile transition in Afghanistan.