Pakistan's Parliament Approves Steps For U.S. Ties
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
In Pakistan, a joint session of parliament has unanimously passed list of tough demands regarding that country's relations with the U.S. They want to restrict the U.S. military presence in the country with demands the U.S. is likely to resist, like banning drone missile attacks. The new guidelines are all part of an effort by the parliament to redefine Pakistan's relations with the U.S. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Islamabad.
JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: These have been dangerous times for U.S.-Pakistan relations. A series of incidents beginning with the discovery of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani military town a year ago has stoked mutual suspicions...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)
MCCARTHY: ...and left both the U.S. and Pakistan feeling as if they were in a bad marriage. As relations curdled, Washington bordered on disdain, while Pakistan openly seethed, with America's fiercest critics owning the streets. So incensed were the Pakistanis by a NATO incursion from Afghanistan last November that killed 24 Pakistani troops at a border post, that they demanded a review of the entire relationship. An unconditional apology for that incident is among Parliament's demands.
In reconsidering its foreign policy with the U.S., parliament has attempted to reboot the relationship. The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security that drafted the recommendations put down the markers.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The relationship with USA should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other.
MCCARTHY: And the new guidelines read like a long list of don'ts. Don't drop any more drones missiles. Don't attempt any more incursions, including hot pursuits. Do not transport arms and ammunition into Afghanistan from the land and air routes of Pakistan.
The revised terms of engagement with the U.S. also prohibit overt or covert operations in Pakistan. No private security contractors or intelligence operatives shall be allowed, it says. CIA contractor Raymond Davis was widely seen here as a real-life Jason Bourne run amuck when he shot dead two Pakistani men on the streets of Lahore last year.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani welcomed the reset of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and looks to Washington to appreciate Pakistan's position.
HINA RABBANI: So I think, now, the onus of responsibility lies also on our partners to understand the clear message that the Pakistani parliament has sent. It's an emphatic yes to a strong, robust partnership, but also an equally emphatic no to unilateralism.
MCCARTHY: Lifting the current blockade on NATO supplies would presumably be a quick decision, as the U.S. says it does not use Pakistani land routes to supply weapons next door. Interior Minister Rehman Malik would not put a date on any re-opening of supply routes for NATO convoys, but was optimistic that resuming the delivery of crucial food and fuel to NATO troops in Afghanistan could be done relatively quickly.
REHMAN MALIK: Of course, we fully realize that U.S. concern, that we have sovereignty, they have security. But at the same time, you have to ensure that there is a balance in it. Once you start respecting each other's mandate, I think matters will get resolved automatically.
MCCARTHY: The United States is not inclined to end drone missile attacks, as parliament has urged. And it remains unclear how that would be negotiated. Overall, it was a rare moment of unity for Pakistan, beset by factionalism, a failing economy and a government beleaguered by corruption and an activist Supreme Court.
And analysts say within the new framework lies a pragmatism that may make it easier to deal with Washington. A State Department spokeswoman said in a statement last night that the U.S. sought a relationship with Pakistan that was more clearly defined. She said: We respect the seriousness with which parliament's review of U.S.-Pakistan relations has been conducted, and look forward to discussing these policy recommendations with the government of Pakistan.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.
MONTAGNE: Meanwhile, today marks an important turn in relations between Pakistan and India. The two neighbors have long been hostile to each other. They fought three wars. Now they're opening a trading post at a border crossing outside the Pakistani city of Lahore. It's the only one of its kind, and will allow traders on both sides to officially do business by road, something that's been restricted for years. The post will be able to handle several hundred trucks a day, and could more than double the current level of trade between the two countries.
The move is seen as a step toward peaceful negotiations on other issues. Ties between India and Pakistan hit new lows in 2008, when a terrorist group from Pakistan attacked the Indian city of Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.