The changed face of Pakistan US relations
The air strike by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at the Pakistani military post at Salala on the Afghan-Pakistan border last Friday night is destined to become a milestone in the chronicle of the Afghan war. There has been a colossal breakdown of diplomacy at the political, military and intelligence level.
Within hours of the incident, Pakistan’s relations with the US began nose-diving and it continues to plunge. What is absolutely stunning is that Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani did not bother to call for an inquiry by the US or NATO into the air strike that resulted in the death of 28 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan’s Defence Committee of the Cabinet (The DDC) simply proceeded on the basis that this was a calculated air strike – and by no means an accidental occurrence. And the DDC statement implies that in the Pakistan military’s estimation, the NATO attack emanated from a U.S. decision.
The DDC took the following decisions: a) to close NATO’s transit routes through Pakistani territory with immediate effect; b) to ask the US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days; c) to “revisit and undertake a complete review” of all “programs, activities and cooperative arrangements” with US, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including in “diplomatic, political and intelligence” areas; d) to announce shortly a whole range of further measures apropos Pakistan’s future cooperation with US, NATO and ISAF.
The response stops short of declaring the termination of Pakistan’s participation in the US-led war in Afghanistan (which, incidentally, is the demand by Pakistani politician Imran Khan who is considered to be close to the Pakistani military circles). In essence, however, Pakistan is within inches of doing that.
This is going to affect the NATO operations in Afghanistan, since around half the supplies for US-NATO troops still go via Pakistan. Equally, the closure of the Shamsi airbase can hurt the US drone operations.
The big issue is how Pakistan proposes to continue with its cooperation with the US-NATO operations. Public opinion is leaning heavily toward dissociating with the US-led war. The government’s announcement on the course of relations with the US/NATO/ISAF can be expected as early as next week. The future of the war hangs by a thread.
[Excerpts of an Asia Times article by Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar, former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service]