RAWALPINDI: Ahead of the Nato summit in Chicago, top military commanders from Pakistan and the United States-led Isaf held negotiations on Saturday to review ‘operational matters’ straining their cooperation and search for a way out of the impasse following last year’s border post attack.
Pakistan, reports suggest, is almost ready to reopen Nato’s supply routes, which could possibly win Islamabad a seat at the Nato meeting on Afghanistan scheduled for May 20 and 21 in Chicago.
“Talks focussed on operations in border areas and coordination mechanisms to avoid untoward incidents,” ISPR, the military’s public affairs wing, said in a brief statement on the talks.
Preventing recurrence of Nov 26-like incidents has been one of the main recommendations of the recently-concluded parliamentary process aimed at reviewing cooperation with the US and Nato.
The Pakistan Army delegation was led by Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani while Gen John Allen headed the International Security Assistance Force team at the parleys.
The talks preceded a meeting of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-US Tripartite Commission for discussing the border coordination.
According to sources, the tripartite commission is expected to meet after the arrival of Afghan army chief, Gen Sher Muhammad Karimi, on Sunday.
Sources said the two sides discussed the suspended Nato supply routes, which the US Department of Defence says remains a “matter of strategic concern”.
Islamabad started negotiating new terms of engagement with Washington after the completion of a parliamentary review that had been initiated after the border attacks, through which it intends to define the red lines vis-à-vis respect for sovereignty, formalise counter-terrorism cooperation and seek remuneration for the use of its territory for supplies for Nato mission in Afghanistan.
The negotiations have proven to be more difficult than what was expected because of US refusal to apologise for the Salala incident and discuss cessation of drone attacks.
The re-engagement talks got complicated because of a US assessment that Taliban-led insurgency and its Al Qaeda affiliates still operate with impunity from sanctuaries in Pakistan.
The safe havens, it is said, remain one of “the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable and sustainable Afghanistan”.
Washington accuses Islamabad of being selective in its counter-insurgency operations, doing nothing to eliminate insurgent safe havens and not interdicting components used in improvised explosive devices.
AFP adds: Saturday’s talks between Gen Kayani and Gen Allen indicated some level of progress in the Pakistan-US relationship, bitterness of the past six months notwithstanding.
The meeting followed several other discussions between US and Pakistani officials in recent weeks.
There is incentive on both sides to resolve the impasse over the Nato supply route. Islamabad is eager to free up more than a billion dollars in US military aid that has been frozen for the past year and would likely only be released once the supply route is reopened.
Another potential carrot could be an invitation to the Nato summit in Chicago on May 20-21, which will largely focus on the Afghan war.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has convened meetings of his cabinet and its defence committee next week to debate how to repair relations with the United States in time to attend the key Nato summit in Chicago.