Thursday, February 29, 2024

Pak-US flip-flop

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Rawalpindi, Pakistan’s army headquarters, had blocked supplies for months to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. But it has been compelled to reopen ground lines of communication through Pakistan territory. Washington has invited Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari to the NATO summit in Chicago next week. The invitation is said to be unconditional. There have been brisk talks between the two sides. The US is anxious to renew bilateral cooperation with Pakistan. But the Pakistan army had denied NATO access to Afghanistan. In November, 20 Pakistani soldiers were killed in armed fighting on the Afghan border. That led the Pakistani army to impose a blockade. The US was asked to offer an apology for the killings and stop drone attacks on the western frontier of Pakistan where the Happani network enjoyed sanctuary. President Barack Obama refused to apologise in election year. Nor did he agree to stop drone attacks. The US held back on aid to Pakistan.

Pakistan failed to mobilise financial help from China or Saudi Arabia. So the situation is now back to square one. NATO had developed the Northern Distribution Network through Russia and Central Asia reducing dependence on supplies to Pakistan. Obviously the Pakistani army’s leverage with Washington has diminished. All depends on whether or not Washington is willing to follow it up or revert to the old tilt. Meanwhile, NATO is sitting pretty in Afghanistan. The British Foreign Secretary has said that Afghans now are more concerned about shortage of electricity than the Taliban menace. The emphasis should be on Afghan reconstruction in which India has a stake.

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