Nearly six months after Pakistan shut NATO supply lines to Afghanistan,Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said she personally believes that the routes should be reopened.
Khar made the remarks while speaking to reporters,who accompanied Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on an official visit to Britain,’The Express Tribune’ said today.
She said it is in Pakistan’s interest to facilitate the international operation in Afghanistan and that there are many friendly countries whose supplies have been blocked.
NATO and ISAF supplies should not be seen in the context of Pakistan’s relations with the US,Khar said.
NATO and ISAF are umbrella organisations for over 40 countries,including Pakistan’s close friends like Turkey and Britain,she said.
Pakistan shut the supply routes to Afghanistan after a cross-border NATO air strike on November 26 last year killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
A joint session of Parliament recently adopted a resolution that demanded an unconditional apology from the US for the attack.
Islamabad’s insistence on an apology has held up efforts to put Pakistan-US ties back on an even keel after a year of crises,including the NATO attack and the unilateral American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Pakistan’s participation in a crucial NATO Summit to be held in Chicago from May 20 too has been linked to the resetting of ties with the US.
Speaking at the end of Gilani’s five-day visit to Britain,Khar,however,said Pakistan’s decision to close the supply routes was the correct one.
In this regard,she recalled the NATO air strike and the American “incursion” to kill bin Laden.
Khar described the operation against the al-Qaeda chief as an effort by the US to take sole credit for finding bin Laden.
Regarding Pakistan’s supposed obligation to keep the supply routes open,given that the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is a UN-mandated mission,Khar said Islamabad was not “bound” as the UN resolution only called for “facilitation.”
She rubbished reports of sanctions being slapped on Pakistan because of the closure of the supply routes.
However,Khar was not forthcoming on when exactly the supply routes would be reopened and was hesitant to even give a timeframe.
When questioned on what the stumbling block was,she said that negotiations are underway and that “goodwill” is needed.
She negated reports that the US had declined to apologise for the NATO attack.
Khar further highlighted the healthy state of Pakistan’s ties with Britain and drew a parallel with the current tensions in relations with the US.
Britain and the US have the same objectives in Afghanistan and yet only the US seems to have issues with Pakistan while the former has no such problems,she said.
The school of thought that says Pakistan should do whatever it takes to remain “relevant” internationally is flawed,she said.
“I’d rather be irrelevant than negatively relevant,” she added.
Asked about the Pakistan army’s role in deciding foreign policy,Khar said the army’s role should not be overplayed or undercut.
In response to a question on who would represent Pakistan at the NATO Summit,she said the country had to first be invited before deciding on who would attend.