Pakistan urges US to respect its sovereignty
Pakistan on Monday emphasized the importance of an “appropriate” American apology over Salala incident to move forward the relationship as Islamabad’s ambassador in Washington Sherry Rehman sought greater appreciation of the Pakistani perspective on the fight against terror. Speaking at a conference on the Captiol Hill, the Pakistani envoy also called for respect for her country’s sovereignty and an end to U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani territory. Ambassador Rehman, who referred to both challenges and opportunities in Pakistan-U.S. relationship, said the two countries are in a “critical phase” of negotiating new terms of engagement and narrowing down their differences.
US Coordinator for non-military assistance for Pakistan Ambassador Robin Raphael also spoke at the moot on relations between the two countries.
In her speech, Ambassador Rehman said once the two countries surmount current challenges in the relationship, they have a lot to gain from a mutually productive and respectful relationship.
Islamabad, she said, had not closed the NATO supply lines into landlocked Afghanistan to ‘price-gouge’ but after the Salala incident, “These (ground lines of communication) were closed following the Salala incident and remain closed pending a US apology. The debate on the matter has been wrongly cast as a price hagcastgle or price gouging in the US media. This is not the case.”
“We want our American friends to respect our sovereignty and territorial integrity. This means no drone attacks and no incursions into Pakistani territory,” she said at a conference organized by the Pakistani-American Congress.
“An appropriate apology for the Salala incident of 26 November 2011 in which twenty four Pakistani soldiers were killed in a US air attack is also needed,” she said.
Sherry Rehman said she is not highlighting Pakistan’s sacrifices as part of some ‘victim narrative’ but reminding the world of the key contributions her country has made in fighting terrorism over last several years.
She said a better understanding of Pakistani point of view in the United States about Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in fighting extremism would help the cause of the relationship.
“We have helped arrest or neutralize nearly 250 Al-Qaeda members, provided the US free use of our highways to transport supplies to Afghanistan. We have lost more than 37,000 Pakistanis to terrorism. Over five thousand security and law enforcement personnel have laid down their lives fighting terrorism.”
At present, she said, the two sides are in a critical phase of re-framing our terms of engagement. “I hope we can narrow our differences and move expeditiously forward. In the context of our region, Pakistan and the United States working individually, are a lot less effective than the sum of the two working together.”
Both countries, the ambassador said, “need to focus on the positives, try to understand each other’s narratives, show understanding for each other’s priorities and constraints, and treat each other as sovereign nations engaged as partners in the defining struggle of our times defeating terrorism.”
“We on the Pakistan side are trying to do so. We urge our friends on the US side to make a similar commitment. The first step in that direction must be to stay away from coercive diplomacy through the media.”
The Pakistani envoy reaffirmed Islamabad’s commitment to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, saying it is in the interests of everyone that Pakistan’s western neighbor is secure and stable.
Pakistan has no desire to treat Afghanistan as its strategic backyard, she remarked.
She hoped that the 2014 withdrawal of international forces Afghanistan would be responsible and said Pakistan’s anxieties in this respect are rooted in the past, when it allied with the US-led partners in the fight against Soviet occupation of its neighbor but the international partners left the region and Pakistan to contend with wreckage of the Afghan war.
“Pakistan is committed to a sovereign Afghan led program of reconciliation. Whatever administration, dispensation Afghan chooses it must be Afghan-led, and Afghan-run.”
Pakistan, she told the gathering of diplomats, American experts and Pakistani-Americans, is seeking to roll back tide of extremism that beset the country since its encounter with Soviet Union on behalf of the United States and other international partners, she said.
On the role of the Pakistani diaspora, the envoy said, they have a valuable role to play in helping the two sides bridge the present gap in the relationship.
“I am aware that Pakistani organizations, such as the PAC, have played an important role in mobilizing support for Pakistan in the US Congress in the past.
The Brown Amendment is a good example.” Still, she said better results can be achieved.
“This will require a sustained effort on the part of both the embassy and the community. The Embassy cannot presume to interfere in the American political process. But what it can do is to provide information and Pakistan’s perspective on important bilateral issues to the community.
And the community can relay these on to their representatives. It can thus amplify the message and lend it credibility.”
Following Ambassador’ Rehamn’s remarks, US Coordinator Robin R Raphael, said the U.S. is conscious of the sacrifices Pakistan has Rendered in fighting terrorists.
She said, the US-Pakistan relationship is challenging relationship but Washington is committed to having a lasting and strategic ties with the South Asian country.
She appreciated Ambassador Rehman’s efforts towards building the ties. The headlines may be negative, she said but added there are myriad of opportunities for more success through cooperative efforts in the years ahead so that Pakistani people can achieve economic development.
On behalf of Pakistan-American Congrress, Dr. Khalid Luqnam, president of the body, welcomed Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and commended her pledge to work with the members of the community to take forward Pakistan-US relations.
Washington, June 19, 2012
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