The NATO Summit in Chicago was held. Pakistan was invited and participated. There was no bilateral meeting between Pakistan and the US and no meeting of the Pakistan President with the NATO Secretary General. The Southern Distribution Network for NATO logistics through Pakistan remains closed pending conclusion of ongoing discussions. The Chicago Summit, however, declared clearly and unambiguously the 2013 deadline for transition and the 2014 deadline for withdrawal. There was also commitment for continued international support to Afghanistan beyond 2014– and the US already has a bilateral agreement with Afghanistan for ‘support troops’ presence till 2024. The 28 nation NATO alliance has other issues besides Pakistan—the 2% of GDP commitment for defense by each state, the future of NATO and ‘smart defense’ as an option. Pakistan figures in the context of Afghanistan and as a nuclear weapon state in the throes of internal instability and violence.

By now it is clear that the US is unlikely to apologize for the Salala attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers or to stop Drone strikes against targets in FATA—the two key conditions put forth by Pakistan for reopening the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC). The US-Pakistan interaction has declined to an extreme transactional relationship with haggling over the per- container transit fee demanded by Pakistan to compensate for damage to its infrastructure. Senator McCain has called it ‘extortion’ and US law makers have moved to cut down and even stop US aid to Pakistan if Pakistan does not open the GLOC. In the process the narrative of those in Pakistan who oppose reopening of the GLOC has found traction in public opinion—they say that the GLOC must remain closed because it provides logistics support to those who are killing Pakistanis and the Afghans fighting for their freedom. They ridicule and condemn the notion of charging transit fees.

It would have been better if decision making had been done at the Cabinet or DCC (Defense Committee of the Cabinet) level but involving the Parliamentary Committee for National Security and the Parliament has been good for the discernible movement towards civilian supremacy. Pakistan could have requested the US for up gradation of the GLOC into a multi-lane highway and the north-south rail link. This would have been a lasting, visible high impact commitment to the state and people of Pakistan by the US. Such a project would have had a positive effect on the regional environment and it could have been the starting point for a reset in US-Pakistan relations instead of the haggling that is taking the relationship to an undignified low. If the commitment was too much for the US to bear alone then the US could have led an international consortium to help Pakistan and the region. Is it too late to revisit the possibilities?

(Spearhead analyses are a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual).

Spearhead Analysis – 24.05.2012