What Pakistan wants to open the supply routes, and what can the US give
This one has been in the offing for a few months now. And it is finally here — the review of Pakistan’s relations with the US by Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). For months, everyone including the man who really matters in Pakistan, the army chief, General Kayani has sworn to abide by the directions of the parliamentary review. There is some meat, a lot of rhetoric and a few unintentionally funny demands in the 40-pointer Guidelines for Revised Terms of Engagement with the US/ NATO/ ISAF and General Foreign Policy (pdf).
Ignoring the rhetoric in the PCNS review report, let us focus on the meaty ones — Pakistani demands, and the likely US reaction.
#2 – The US must review its footprints in Pakistan. This means (i) the cessation of drone strikes inside the territorial borders of Pakistan,…
= It is impossible that the US will agree to stop drone strike inside Pakistan. These drone strikes are low-risk, low-cost means to effectively target al Qaeda and other jehadi groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Having seen them deliver good results so far, these strikes form the very basis of US strategy in Pakistan. The best that the US can perhaps agree to is to stop using Pakistani airbases to fly its drones, and operate them only from bases in Afghanistan.
What happens if the US refuses to accede to this demand? Will Pakistan muster up its aircrafts and anti-aircraft weapons to shoot these drones inside Pakistani airspace? Or it will continue to be nudge-nudge, wink-wink as hitherto.
#5 – The Government of Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident dated 25th-26th November, 2011, in Mohmand agency…
= It has been reported that the US President was about to offer an apology to Pakistan around the time the Quran burning incident occurred in Afghanistan. His apology to Afghanistan put him in a political spot domestically and has made it difficult for him to apologise to Pakistan now. However, it is possible that a senior US military official could call up General Kayani and apologise for the Salala incident. Of course, Pakistan Army will spin it as an “unconditional apology” which will then give it an excuse to carry on with its ghairat (pride) intact.
#11 – Taxes and other charges must be levied on all goods imported in or transiting through Pakistan for use of infrastructure and to compensate for its deterioration.
= This is something which will be negotiated between US and Pakistan. Pakistan, more particularly the Pakistani Military-Business Complex, needs US dollars and wants to milk the NATO supply routes to the maximum possible extent. The US military needs the supply routes through Pakistan not to supply its troops in Afghanistan but to bring the military equipment out of the theatre, consequent to the planned troop drawdown.
#15 – A new fast-track process of billings and payments/ reimbursements with regard to CSF and other leviable charges shall be adopted.
= US has not given a penny to Pakistan as Coalition Support Funds (CSF) reimbursement since November 2010. Pakistan’s perilous economic situation necessitates an early transfer of CSF money from the US. While US might release some old dues as a one-time sop after the supply lines resume through Pakistan, it is unlikely to amend the process of audit and verification of bills submitted by Pakistan Army towards CSF reimbursement. Audit and verification of bills is a Congressional requirement and the US Department of Defense can’t afford to bypass that stipulation.
To sum up, out of these four demands, the one on drones will not be accepted by the US. Two will be met partially — the apology may not be unconditional but would still be an apology, and some old CSF dues may be released by the US while the process remains unchanged. The demand on levying new taxes and charges will be — or has perhaps already been — negotiated by the US. This is how the final score sheet looks like : one No, one Yes, and two Maybe. If that one No is not a Veto, NATO supply lines through Pakistan should resume next month.
Now to the unintentional levity in the PCNS report. There are a few but this one is absolutely hilarious:
#9 – There should be prior permission and transparency on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan.
Really! Now dear PCNS, did you really need to prove that talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand?