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Aid for Pakistan continued during route closure
Publication Date : 18-07-2012
The United States has continued to provide civilian assistance to Pakistan throughout the closure of the Nato supply lines, the US State Department said yesterday while insisting that Washington wanted to get its relationship with Islamabad back on track.
But a prominent US newspaper – The Washington Post – warned yesterday that such efforts could not mend this frayed relationship.
In a statement to the media, the State Department said that US “civilian assistance to Pakistan has been ongoing throughout the closure of the Nato supply lines and has continued after their opening”.
Pakistan closed the supply lines after a November 26 US air raids on one of its border posts killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The routes reopened earlier this month when the United States apologised to Pakistan over the incident.
At an earlier briefing, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell also stressed the need for rebuilding the ties despite continued differences.
“Obviously we want to get our relationship back on track,” said Ventrell when a journalist asked if the United States also wanted to revive its strategic dialogue with Pakistan, not held since Osama bin Laden’s elimination in May last year.
“We look to the future in our relationship with Pakistan, and so we look forward to more intensively engaging with them on a whole range of issues as we go forward,” he added.
He pointed out that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers recently attended a core group meeting in Tokyo. This indicated that the US had continued its “intensive engagement with the Pakistanis going forward”, he said.
In the message issued on Tuesday afternoon, the State Department pointed out that since the passage of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation in October 2009, the US government had disbursed US$2.8 billion in civilian assistance, including approximately $1 billion in emergency humanitarian assistance.
US non-humanitarian civilian assistance funds are spent in five priority sectors: energy, economic growth, stabilisation of vulnerable areas, education, and health.
In 2011, the United States supported the construction of 210 kilometres of road in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, funded the world’s largest Fulbright exchange programme, and sponsored initiatives promoting private sector growth and civil society development in Pakistan.
“The United States remains committed to a strong, mutually respectful relationship with Pakistan,” the State Department said.
“We consider bilateral US civilian assistance to be an important component of that relationship and believe it can help Pakistan become a more prosperous, stable, and democratic state, which serves the national interests of both the countries,” the statement added.
Asked if the US and Pakistan were working on a new deal to regularise Nato supplies to Afghanistan, Ventrell said the US had made “some residual technical arrangements” with Pakistan and was also discussing future arrangements with them.
Meanwhile, in a lead editorial, the Post noted that the deal to reopen Nato supplies would not end all existing tensions. The reopening, however, will facilitate the massive withdrawal of US troops and equipment from Afghanistan scheduled to take place between now and the end of 2014, the newspaper noted.
In return Pakistan will get more than $1 billion in deferred compensation from Washington.The dispute also “underlined the reality that the deeper alliance that the Obama administration once hoped to forge with this nuclear-armed Muslim nation is out of reach for the foreseeable future,” the Post claimed.
The “insurmountable obstacle” in achieving this objective, it noted, was “the political dysfunction of Pakistan”.
The Post described Pakistan as a country divided between “a feuding, corrupt and insular civilian political elite and a military establishment dependent on terrorist allies and obsessed with unacceptable and unattainable geopolitical ambitions”.
The newspaper called the conflict between the Pakistan People's Party-led government and the Supreme Court a “pointless battle” which prevented the government from focusing on real issues, like acute water and power shortages.
“Until Pakistan develops a democratic civilian government capable of purging that belligerence, the United States will have to settle for a pragmatic combination of buying off Pakistan when it is possible — and containing it when it is not,” the newspaper concluded.