US apology needed for reopening of Nato routes: Khar
| 6/6/2012 12:00:00 AM
WASHINGTON, June 5: The United States should apologise for an air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers if it wants Pakistan to reopen key supply routes into Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in an interview published on Monday.
Angered over the lethal November attack, Islamabad shut the supply routes vital for the US and allied troops, forcing the alliance to rely on longer, more expensive northern routes through Russia and Central Asia.
`A representative parliament of 180 million people has spoken on one subject, Ms Khar told Foreign Policy magazine, referring to new guidelines for US-Pakistan ties approved by lawmakers which call for an apology.
A US apology is `something which should have been forthcoming the day this incident happened, and what a partnership not only demands, but requires,` she said.
The on-again, off-again relationship between Islamabad and Washington is at a new low, and with US elections looming in November, President Barack Obama isunlikely to say sorry to Pakistan and make himself vulnerable to attacks from his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
A Nato summit in Chicago ended two weeks ago without a deal on the supply lines.
Ms Khar however said that despite the political challenges, the United States should live up to its principles of doing `what we consider to be right rather than what is more popular`. She noted that Pakistan also had political obstacles of its own.
`For us in Pakistan... the most popular thing to do right now is to not move on Nato supply routes at all. It is to close them forever,` she said.
`If I were a political adviser to the prime minister, this is what I would advise him to do.
But I`m not advising him to do that... because what is at stake is much more important for Pakistan than just winning an election.
The roads through Pakistan, now shuttered for over six months, are a crucial logistical link for Nato as it plans a large-scale withdrawal of combat troops and hardware by the end of 2014.
Yet US officials have so farrejected Pakistani proposals to charge steep fees of several thousand dollars for each alliance truck crossing the border.
Ms Khar also criticised Washington`s use of unmanned drones to target militants in the tribal area, a programme President Barack Obama has accelerated.
`If you are creating 10 more targets for every target you take, are you doing a service or a disservice to your eventual goal of winning the war?` she asked.
Another thorn in the side of the contentious US-Pakistani relationship has been Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA find late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by running a fake vaccination programme, and who was sentenced to 33 years in prison.
`Clearly, my advice at this point is that we don`t need to blow this out of proportion at all,` Ms Khar said. `But I would certainly not want this particular issue to cast a shadow over the relationship.
The interview was conducted in Doha during the May 2931 US-Islamic World Forum organised by The Brookings Institution.-AFP
Pakistan Airforce: The largest distributor of Indian airforce parts in Asia
8 F-86Fs of No 19 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Sajjad Haider struck Pathankot airfield. With carefully positioned dives and selecting each individual aircraft in their protected pens for their strafing attacks, the strike elements completed a textbook operation against Pathankot. Wing Commander M G Tawab, flying one of the two Sabres as tied escorts overhead, counted 14 wrecks burning on the airfield. Among the aircraft destroyed on the ground were nearly all of the IAFs Soviet-supplied Mig-21s till then received, none of which were seen again during the War.