Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pakistan tells US it wants ties written in black and white

Irritated and fed up with the mixed signals coming from the United States, Pakistan says the time for these “verbal assaults” is over and “clearly defined, well documented and mutually agreed terms of engagement” should now define ties between the two countries.
US bets on India, says Pakistan’s a problem in Afghanistan 
President Asif Zardari conveyed his government’s sentiments to Ambassador Marc Grossman, US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, who called on him on Thursday morning. Grossman also met Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Foreign  
Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Pakistan for the first time pointed to the need for clearly defined terms of engagement which the president said were necessary to avoid operational irritants that hamper the relationship. These ‘documented’ terms of agreement have never been made public by either side.

The president called for exercising mutual restraint in public pronouncements that adversely impact the bilateral relationship and emphasised the need to develop a cooperative and joint roadmap to overcome the trust deficit.

Grossman’s visit coincided with two drone attacks in Waziristan but neither he nor the Pakistani leadership thought it fit to comment on the hits at a time when Washington seems ready to speak to the Haqqani network. There was no mention of the Haqqani network in the statements released after the meeting.

While frowning on what he said was continuing “public messaging” by the US, Zardari said such messages tended to undermine the bedrock of the relationship and shrank political space for his democratic government. “Ironically militants and terrorists have gained the most from verbal assaults and finger pointing at Pakistan or from this questioning of our commitment to fighting extremists,” the president said. “It has only damaged the relationship between the two countries and undermined the common objective of defeating extremism and terrorism. It is high time the verbal assaults cease and the rhetoric cool down so that serious and meaningful dialogue between the two countries could resume in earnest,” Zardari was quoted by his office.

Without going into details of the “negative propaganda” against Pakistan, Grossman was also told that the Pakistan government was committed to regional peace and had decided to attend the forthcoming trilateral summit of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey in Istanbul next month. The US was reminded that Pakistan, due to its geo-strategic location, was a major stakeholder and regional player in promoting regional stability and peace.

“Pakistan has an abiding interest in a peaceful, stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan and will continue to support every effort of the international community in this regard. Any development in Afghanistan directly impacts Pakistan and Pakistan supports any Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process,” said Zardari.

Gilani, meanwhile, focused on the need to engage with the US in areas of trade, energy, water and power and infrastructure. Afghanistan was the focus of the Kayani-Grossman meeting also but there was complete silence from Grossman’s office as well as the ISPR on details of the exchange.

Grossman, after his meetings, said in a joint press conference with Hina Rabbani that, “We have tried to think about the future and find ways to keep our strategic dialogue going. We agreed that we can continue, in a systematic way, to find shared issues, and there are many, and act jointly on them”.

Grossman declined to take any questions at the hurriedly called press conference at the Foreign Office, clearly indicating that the two sides had not come to any understanding on the contentious issues that continue to plague bilateral ties.

Agencies add: Though the ISPR issued a short statement saying that the US representative remained with the COAS for some time and discussed measures for Pak-US cooperative framework for peace in the region, sources told Online news agency that Kayani and Grossman exchanged views over recent tension between the two allies.

General Kayani reportedly told his visitor that no new military operation could be launched in any part of the country till completion of the ongoing operations against terrorists.

Gen Kayani emphasised the need for relationship based on equality between the two countries and stressed promoting bilateral cooperation, trust and intelligence sharing, sources said. Sources said the army chief and US diplomat also discussed Pak-Afghan border security situation amid conciliatory process between the two neighbouring counties. Gen Kayani made it clear to Marc Grossman that Pakistan would no longer tolerate attacks on its soil by Afghanistan and US should control the situation.

Sources said Gen Kayani also strongly refuted the US allegations regarding the ISI links with the Haqqani network and said the Pakistan Army was fighting as the frontline state in the war against terrorism. The sacrifices made by Pakistani soldiers are unmatched and our troops or intelligence agencies have no link with any terrorist organisation, he added. The COAS also called for an end levelling of charges adding that such allegations could adversely affect not only the war on terror but also the cordial relations between the two countries.

Sources said Marc Grossman calling for cordial, improved relations between the two allies said the two countries need to cooperate with each other in the fight against terror. He said we have concerns over the Haqqani network and its safe havens in North Waziristan and Pakistan needs to address our concerns.

He acknowledged that the relationship between the two countries had soured over the recent developments but stressed that it is time to move forward and make joint efforts for peace in Afghanistan, sources said.

Mariana Baabar


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