WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan explore new terms of engagement as they contemplate various options for rebuilding a relationship which has deteriorated rapidly since January 2011.
“We will continue to engage where we even have legitimate concerns and disagreements,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her address to the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference in Washington on Tuesday.
“I appreciate Secretary Clinton’s words of engaging despite differences,” said Pakistan’s Ambassador Sherry Rehman, when asked for comments on the secretary’s statement. “We hope to seek parliament’s views on the terms of re-engagement very soon.”
While Secretary Clinton focused on the need for staying engaged with Pakistan, Ambassador Rehman tried to downplay media reports that Islamabad and Washington had reached an agreement on drone strikes or on reopening Nato supply routes.
Known as the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC), the routes bring supplies for US and Nato forces in Afghanistan via Torkham and Chaman borders. The GLOC carries nearly half the supplies of coalition forces in Afghanistan at one-tenth the cost of air supply.
“There is no question of anyone cutting a deal on anything behind Parliament’s back, whether it is drones or the GLOC.”
She said that in a series of recent meetings with US officials and lawmakers, Pakistan also stressed the need for discontinuing drone strikes because Islamabad believed that a large number of civilians were also killed in those attacks.
While the United States has indicated that it may agree to involve Pakistan in the decision making process, it is not willing to discontinue the drone strikes because it believes they have been very effective in eliminating key Al Qaeda leaders.
Instead, of settling the drone or GLOC issues first, Pakistan seems more interested in defining the future parameters of a bilateral relationship. These were some of the issues that Secretary Clinton identified as “legitimate concerns and disagreements”.
Ambassador Rehman insisted that the review had to be completed before Pakistan and the US start sorting out the issues that divide them.
“All Pakistani principals are in lock-step on that. This is the new Pakistan and we work like all democracies, with full consultation and openness,” she said.