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Talks FAIL: Pakistan still wants an apology, US says NO

April 28, 2012 16:11 IST
Continuation of drone strikes and US's reluctance to tender an apology over the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers proved to be stumbling blocks in the talks between United States and Pakistan, reports Tahir Ali

While Pakistan and the United States resumed formal talks after a five-month deadlock, nothing consequential resulted from the meetings between United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and the top brass of the Pakistani civil and military leadership.

During his two-day visit, Grossman held meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvaiz Kayani.

Grossman was reportedly asked for a review of Pakistan-US relations in line with Parliament's recommendations. But no 'satisfactory' outcome was witnessed as the continuation of drone strikes and US's reluctance to tender an apology over the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at Salala check-point proved to be contentious issues.

But the US official assured that his government was ready to settle some other issues like the delayed payments for the Coalition Support Fund with Pakistan.

Talking about his visit, Grossman said, "We want to work to reopen the ground lines of communication. We want to discuss several outstanding claims for the CSF. We are ready to get to work on our shared counter-terrorism objectives."

But the US side stuck to its stance over the continuation of the drone strikes, no apology over the attack on Salala check post and new terms of engagement.

The US is not ready to stop drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan because the Central Intelligence Agency claims that the high level of Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership has been 'decimated' by these strikes.

Pakistan has repeatedly termed these attack as an infringement of its sovereignty. Since its inception in 2004, the US has so far carried out 295 drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan. 

When Khar was asked about the issue of drone strikes after her meeting with Grossman, she said, "US didn't want to listen to Pakistan's demands of halting the US drone attacks. Other means should be used to take out militants in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region near the Afghanistan border."  

President Zardari, terming the drone strikes as counter-productive, told the US envoy, "Drone attacks are highly counter-productive in the war against militants. Both sides should consider setting up a framework of mechanism to find mutually acceptable alternatives."

But the deadlock over opening up Pakistani routes for NATO supplies to Afghanistan, which was shut down by Islamabad after the Salala check post strike, continues as the US has refused to apologise for the incident.

Although Washington had earlier indicated to Pakistani interlocutors that the American civilian and military leadership was ready to tender an apology for the incident, it changed its stance at the last moment.

According to Grossman, the US had reneged on its commitment towards apologising for the Salala incident -- that he had communicated to Pakistan during the London meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Khar -- for a variety of reasons, chiefly President Barack Obama's domestic political compulsions.

According to Zardari's spokesperson Farhatullah Babar, the Pakistan president told the US official, "After the Pakistan side has followed the democratic course for re-engagement with the United States based on transparency, mutual interest and respect, it is now the US's turn to fully appreciate the democratic course and to help Pakistan in reaching closure on Salala, by helping the Pakistan government follow the path as indicated by the parliament." 

Before the visit of the US envoy, Pakistani authorities had sensed that there might not be an immediate solution to the issue.

Before Grossman's visit to Pakistan, Khar had stated that the ban on NATO supplies should be considered 'indefinite' for now.

"Although there is considerable US pressure on the government to reopen the route, circumstances demand that we stick to our guns. For the Pakistan-US equation to be fixed, it is imperative that we are regarded as equals, not serfs," Khar reportedly said.

Grossman also held meeting with the military leadership and discussed the issue of CSF payments. Pakistan was supposed to get $800 million under the CSF in the fiscal year but it has not got a single penny since December 2010.

Grossman assured Pakistani authorities that the early reimbursement of approximately $1.5 billion under the CSF, withheld since a long time, will finally be released.

According to experts, if the only positive outcome of the visit was the release of CSF payments, then this clearly indicates that the US has not had a change of heart about reviewing ties with the civilian government in Pakistan.

Tahir Ali