The committee’s report, therefore, rightfully asserts that the country's sovereignty shall not be compromised at any cost and the relationship with the US should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other’s.
“Any use of Pakistani basis or airspace by foreign forces would require parliamentary approval,” recommends the report, while calling upon “the government, its ministries, autonomous bodies and other organizations not to enter into verbal agreement with any foreign government or authority.”
In a key step meant to repair the country’s ties with the US, the PCNS calls for the resumption of NATO supplies through Pakistan into Afghanistan, which are shut for the past four months, while recommending higher tariffs and a requirement that half the goods travel on Pakistan Railways.
For its part, the Obama administration is tentatively prepared to begin paying a set rate for the transport, which has thus far been a free passage. One option for the Obama Administration is to transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars authorized for annual payment in a Coalition Support Fund for Pakistani counterinsurgency activities.
Frustrated particularly by the continuing closure of the supply route, the US government has showed its readiness to reshape US ties with Pakistan in accordance with the new terms of engagement recommended by the country’s parliament. While behind the scenes a tacit agreement may continue to exist between the countries over the drone attacks, which have helped eliminate scores of Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, and therefore served the counter-terrorism interests of the two countries, the issue of apology may prove more difficult to solve.
For President Obama, it is an election year. Already, his apology to Afghanistan for the inadvertent burning of Korans last month by the U.S. military has drawn some political criticism at home. Thus, even if the State Department has proposed, and the White House has agreed, that President Obama should issue a full apology for the strikes by U.S warplanes, actualizing this option may have domestic political cost for him as Democratic presidential contender for a second administration term.
However, it goes without saying that at this crucial juncture when US and NATO have started to withdraw from Afghanistan, which necessitates that the conflict in Afghanistan be resolved politically sooner than later, the old allies in the War on Terror should stick together—rather than drift apart, over counter-terrorism issues that can be mutually resolved. Pakistani preferences in this war may be different from those of the US and NATO, but the goal of combating terrorism is surely a collective one.
It, therefore, makes sense for Pakistan, as much as the United States, to bury the hatchet and start repairing their recently strained relationship, that seemed to have assumed a strategic dimension at least until the end of 2010. The US and Pakistan were then engaged in a strategic dialogue, whose three rounds in that year identified over a dozen areas of civilian development in Pakistan to be financed by the billions of dollars of US civilian assistance under the Kerry-Lougar-Berman Act.
If the US is willing to readdress Pakistani grievances regarding the violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity by US and NATO military operations on the country’s soil, then it makes sense on Pakistan’s part to support the US and NATO in resolving the conflict in Afghanistan.
It is but all clear that without Pakistani help, the US will not be able to resolve this conflict. The Afghan Taliban, over which Pakistan has significant clout, have just walked out of the negotiations with the US. Islamabad can persuade them to come back to the currently stalled US-Taliban talks, which have recently contributed to Taliban’s decision to open a liaison office in Qatar. However, for the purpose, the United States also needs to take Pakistan’s stance on Afghan reconciliation, made clear in the PCNS report as well, that it should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, with Pakistan and other countries, including the US, acting only as facilitators.
To conclude, the recommendations of the parliamentary committee are quite comprehensive, reflecting a holistic approach to foreign policy. Their expected approval by the joint sitting of the parliament, with some additions or omissions, will augur well for Pakistan, especially in terms of enabling the civilian forces to be in the driving seat of conducting its external affairs, particularly the relationship with the US, in accordance with public aspirations.