AFTER seven months of obstinacy by both sides, and a year and a half of tensions between the US and Pakistan, the reopening of Nato supply routes holds in it the promise of a turning point in the relationship. Whether through a recognition of our increasing international isolation, a desire to be involved in the future of Afghanistan, or simply a realisation of the limited power Pakistan really had in these negotiations, the Pakistani civilian and military leaderships have finally demonstrated a willingness to compromise despite hurt sensitivities and political pressure at home. In return, the US needs to be extremely conscious of Pakistani sovereignty going forward, including when it comes to the unilateral use of drone attacks. If both sides grasp the opportunity this moment presents, it could help turn a dysfunctional relationship into one that can actually help solve the region’s security problems.

In fact, the most significant advantage Pakistan could derive from this moment is to start reversing the reputation it has developed of being an obstacle to peace in the region. The outcome of the talks has shown Pakistan did not gain much else from miscalculating the leverage it really had and then sticking stubbornly to that calculation. We have managed to obtain an apology — though some argue it wasn’t formal or direct enough — but not much else is different seven months later. There will be no transit fees, Pakistan had to say mistakes were made by both sides — a significant step back from the earlier position that the Americans attacked Pakistani soldiers deliberately — and the coalition support funds that will now come through represent overdue reimbursements for money already spent and will not solve the ongoing issues that come up every year with processing CSF payments. In the process, we have risked our reputation with the other Isaf countries as well. The lesson from all this should be that a concern for Pakistani sovereignty has to be balanced with the need to play a constructive, cooperative role in the region.

Aside from sorting out lingering issues with America, particularly counterterrorism cooperation, the task at home now is to rein in any violent right-wing reactions. The right was encouraged when public anger was needed as evidence of Pakistan’s political constraints, and by the same token it can probably be controlled now that a deal has been struck. But the risk with fostering intolerant forces is that they cannot always be managed. The Taliban, too, have said they will retaliate. It is now the security forces’ responsibility to make sure that truckers, and the communities that they pass through, remain safe.

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Comments (29)

Iftikhar Husain
July 5, 2012 10:50 am
The routes are open and now is the time to negotiate the future relationship not only with US but also with Brussels. Economically country is in a bad state this favoue of opening routes will be useful for bargaining.
July 5, 2012 4:19 pm
Long overdue.
July 5, 2012 12:17 pm
Reopening NATO route is positive step in right direction.
July 5, 2012 3:21 pm
it was a prudent decision .the right-wing parties should embrace the decision. the long march and protest will turn in to political stability.
July 5, 2012 10:51 pm
military had sold nation again
Hassan Zaeem Aftab
July 5, 2012 11:19 am
Both sides must have done much earlier, Hope for good future. Now Both sides must learn lesson. the goal to eliminate International Terriosim will be achieved
Muhammad Alvi
July 5, 2012 10:17 am
I agree: Pakistan's problem is with herself - corruption. When dealing with other countries, in this case with US, Pakistani establishment is focused on getting some money on such terms that they can use it to fill their personal foreign accounts. National interests are totally missing from the equation. As a matter of fact the national interests get sold. The foreign aid is working like bribe; Pakistan will be better off without such aid.
July 5, 2012 10:10 am
Transit routes were closed, and they have now been opened, because the Pakistan military wants it so. US would not have acceded to both an increase in the transit fees, and a huge aid package. In any case the increased transit fees would have gone into the government coffers, whereas over a billion dollars aid money goes directly to the military. Draw your own conclusions.
July 7, 2012 10:46 am
Sold? They gave it for free. The 24 jawans mere sheep sent to slaughter for nothing.
July 7, 2012 10:43 am
Both cut from the same cloth. He shames the uniform, they the Chair and Office.
Altaf Hussain Mumbai
July 5, 2012 3:50 am
Secretary Clinton has played with words, implicating Pakistan as a party responsible for the Salala tragedy, no respite from drones, no hike in transit fees, declaration of route opening made before the Parliamentary Committee could even meet, where does all this leave Pakistan?
July 5, 2012 3:56 am
Pakistan issue is not so much a dysfunctional relationship with others, but with herself. Her intentions, thoughts, words, and actions looks disconnected to us.
ss verma
July 5, 2012 3:57 am
If Pakistan had made the same announcement at the NATO Summit at Chicago +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ it would have been victory. Now its merely capitulation and surrender.
July 5, 2012 4:26 am
Good news.
A citizen
July 5, 2012 12:54 pm
Shame on you Kiyani for opening the transit route. We had no expectation for our political leaders because they had already sold their ego and sovereignty. Now Gen sb you are managed to stay on the same line.
July 5, 2012 6:48 am
Government of Pakistan have probably taken a right approach by re-opening the ground supplies route towards Afghanistan. This turn would bring Pakistan out from isolation from last eight months. Such bold decisions would not not only reduce militants threats but also bring the economy to a new momentum.
abdul salam
July 5, 2012 7:34 am
this is not the correct analysis of the issue (s).
Syed Ahmed
July 5, 2012 4:07 pm
I agree with Ifthikar Hussain, if at all we are in bargaining position, we should pursue the US to transport goods to Afghanistan by rail and build a motorway from Karachi port to Kabul. This will be in their interest as well as Afghanistan. Pakistan may also benefit.
Muhammad Naeem Tariq
July 5, 2012 5:14 pm
the recent development in the diplomatic relations, both the US and Pakistan have an opportunity to take the ever difficult relationship to new high. the American sorry has somehow created the room for the civilian govt to move forward. Americans, however, need to appreciate that Pakistan do have a stake in Afghan Peace process. Convergence of interests in the Afghan Peace Process can be the only way forward.
(Dr.) B.N. Anand
July 5, 2012 9:09 am
Sir When it is a case of both sides agreeing that mistakes were made by each of them, it seems that time lost was not the worth. There is no doubt that Pakistan had to react strongly to record its anger at the Salal incident, but then ultimately had to capitulate in the end to the whims of the super power with out getting any assurance for the superpower to at least respect the sovereignty of Pakistan. The drone attacks continue whether Pakistan likes it or not. It is indeed not a flattering situation. Hopefully, things may change after 2012. BNA
simple guy
July 5, 2012 9:41 am
Sir, why is it always the responsibility of security forces to solve the problems of truckers or for that matter any thing related to terrorism. You mentioned that now a big threat is from Taliban, where is the political will to oppose Taliban? Why is Judiciary quiet about actions taken by Taliban? Why is media so much afraid to pin point Taliban present in Punjab and rest of Pakistan? Where is involvement of Bureaucracy in resolving issue of Terrorism? Why do we all think that it is only "security forces" fighting Taliban?
M. Asghar
July 5, 2012 9:43 am
One should understand in the near future, the geopolitical significance of this reopening of the routs for the NATO supplies .
July 6, 2012 2:17 am
Bargaining is done before the event, not after signing the contract. This should be obvious. Perhaps our leaders also think like you.
Ambreen(Med student)
July 6, 2012 2:23 am
"Pakistan had to react strongly to record its anger at the Salal incident" International policy, actions and reactions are based on rational thought, not emotions.
Robert L.
July 6, 2012 2:37 am
Where is the political stability now before the long march and protest? Looks more like confusion and chaos to me.
July 6, 2012 2:46 am
From who's prespective? Not Pakistan's, obviously.
Jari H.
July 6, 2012 2:48 am
Wrong on all counts. Cannot disagree with you more.
El Cid
July 6, 2012 3:02 am
The US Secretary Hillary Clinton is a highly intelligent educated and experienced lady. An expert international negotiator with a high quality team to back her up. Pakistan has no one who can even come close. This was a ' No Contest' walk over for her.
July 6, 2012 8:05 am
Pakistan is gonna reopen supply route free of cost in the best interests of region. hahahahah What kinda interest is that, can anyone convince me? I think we are enough rich or financially strong that we don't need even a penny from NATO or ISAF in the name of transit charges that every civilized country does but before that its 1,000,000 dollar's question "are we civilized?" When our shameless officials demanded 5000 $s for each container how brutally Americans said that you can't bribe us. So keeping that in mind and also present statement "free of charges" who won America or Pakistan?
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