Implications of Modi’s election for Pakistan

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On the back of a widespread anti-Congress sentiment, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have been fighting tooth and nail to rise to the top. But while AAP has propped up its anti-corruption credentials, BJP and Narendra Modi have not forgotten a pivotal play: Pakistan.

The most recent of this anti-Pakistan rhetoric was spouted by Bihar BJP leader, Giriraj Singh, who is also the party’s candidate from Nawada. “Those who want to stop Modi will soon have no place in India … because their place will be in Pakistan,” Singh boomed during a rally on April 18, 2014.

While Pakistan — despite issuing a response to Singh’s proclamations — is still looking unconcerned about hardliner Mr Narendra Modi’s likely ascension to power, deep-down Islamabad’s policy strategists are beset with fears of uncertainty about the future trajectory of the bilateral ties under the expected BJP government.

The mire is deep and complicated, since Modi is considered to be naïve on foreign policy.

Of course, Modi’s popular image in Pakistan is that of a radical Hindu leader, who is both anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan, and under whose watch the Gujarat massacre of Muslims in India took place in 2002. This negative perception in Pakistan gains further significance because of the complicated nature of Indo-Pak ties, which have mostly remained on crisis mode, particularly during the past five years.

As we head towards change of government in India, it needs to be remembered that peace dialogue between the two countries remains suspended since January 2013 and progress in ties during the two years of dialogue (2011 & 2012) was practically nil. Trade and visa liberalisation, the two much flaunted successes, have been just on the paper.

This hardly provides us with a sound platform to start dealing with a leader who has been a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) full timer pracharak (ideologue, proponent of ideas) — a background that could psychologically inhibit him from moving forward with Pakistan.

Jinnah Institute President and former Ambassador Sherry Rehman, who has remained involved in a Track-II initiative with India — the Chaophraya Dialogue, agrees that Modi’s unapologetic communalism will certainly impact policy with Pakistan. But, she wonders, how much?

So too does former Ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi. “Most important for Islamabad, will the next government in Delhi agree to revive the broad-based composite dialogue, suspended since early 2013? Or will it persist with an approach that limits the bandwidth of talks by cherry picking issues of India’s priority?” she asks.

“Modi’s predicted rise to power is being viewed with much anxiety. His reputation as anti-Muslim and an extremist worries Pakistanis. At the same time, it also confirms the stereotype about India and the Indians,” says analyst Raza Rumi.

The worry is that the negative perceptions about Modi at home could also limit space for Islamabad to negotiate with him given that public opinion would prevent the government from making slightest of the concessions to India.

It’s not only that Pakistanis are worried about what would happen with a fundamentalist ruling next door, Indians too are concerned. Most recently, many from Bollywood joined the initiative by screenwriter Anjum Rajabali to request voters to choose a “secular party” in their constituency. Their rationale: “India’s secular character is not negotiable! Not now, not ever.” Nearly 60 members of the Bollywood fraternity signed this plea, including filmmakers Vishal Bhardwaj, Imtiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar and Kabir Khan, as well as icons such as Mahesh Bhatt, Shubha Mudgal, and Nandita Das.

Anxiety in India aside, Islamabad finds some solace in the fact that its last experience of dealing with a BJP government in Delhi was not all that bad. The last BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had the prime minister launching a major diplomatic push for normalising ties with Pakistan. The Delhi-Lahore bus service which started in February 1999 still reminds us about the steps that were then taken to improve relations in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests.

The “Lahore Declaration”, issued during Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan, is one of the most important treaties signed between the two countries since the Simla Agreement. And more importantly, Vajpayee remained engaged with President Musharraf, after he took over in 1999, despite him being accused of orchestrating the Kargil attack.

Pakistani officials were therefore particularly encouraged to hear Modi saying that he would pursue the policies followed by his BJP predecessor, Vajpayee.

“One of the views in Pakistan is that having previously dealt with a BJP government, Pakistan might find it ‘easier’ to manage relations with India under a strong, right-wing government, not on the defensive at home on Pakistan policy and able to make diplomatic compromises,” explains Dr Lodhi.

Then there are economic opportunities for regional cooperation, which would compel Modi to toe a friendlier line with Islamabad instead of pursuing a confrontational path.

What also comforts Pakistani strategists is that Modi’s overall agenda is economic development. Accordingly, it is believed, he would be more inclined towards a more sustainable and predictable relationship with Pakistan. His image not being very positive among Muslims, he may be tempted to go an extra mile to reach out to Pakistan with a view to burnishing his image.

Despite being under the overwhelming sway of Hindutva, it needs to be remembered that during his election campaign, he tried to project himself a moderate and not a champion of the radical Hindu cause. There is also a hope that pressures of being in office would further temp down his rhetoric and the imperatives of governance will hopefully drive him towards engagement with Pakistan.

“I think Pakistan should watch the unfolding leadership transition, but not worry over — much. Incumbency has a way of sifting election polemic into moderation. That said, I do think a rightist government in New Delhi will deal with a bilateral crisis with less temperance than say, Manmohan Singh,” argues Rehman.

Dr Lodhi is, however, skeptical about any major shift in Modi’s stance. “Even if Modi’s domestic economic priorities persuade him to enhance economic ties with Pakistan, his reputation for ‘muscular nationalism’ will urge him towards a harder line on contentious issues, especially Kashmir. Under Modi, even disputes regarded as low hanging fruit, such as Sir Creek, would see little progress,” she insists.

Nevertheless, it is important to keep an eye on potential flashpoints.

It goes without saying that BJP government would further pressure Pakistan for a trial of Mumbai suspects. Similarly, any misadventure by non-state actors could be met with a stronger response than what used to be the case with the Congress government. Such an eventuality would always have the possibility of degenerating into a full-scale military confrontation between the nuclear armed arch rivals.

The other issue to watch out would be Kashmir. India has traditionally been reluctant to talk about the lingering dispute, but the issue has remained on the talks table. The BJP manifesto now describes Kashmir as a “non-negotiable issue”. Pakistan could hardly be comfortable with this position.

The BJP manifesto also promises to revoke a constitutional clause that guarantees a semblance of autonomy for the occupied valley. Any move in this direction would be seen in Pakistan as changing the status of the disputed territory and could aggravate tensions.

The BJP manifesto further pledges to give up “no-first-use” policy on nuclear weapons — an announcement that was designed to tell voters that if voted into power, the BJP would get tougher with arch-rival Pakistan.

This too could have serious consequences for regional stability even though any such change would be merely symbolic. “India had practically abandoned its no-first-use policy in January 2003 when it operationalised its nuclear doctrine,” argues Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, an expert on strategic issues.

It’s worth noting that Indian nuclear doctrine states: “However, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.” This provision is in already in contravention of the traditional view of no-first-use, in which the subscribing state commits to respond with nuclear weapons only when attacked by nukes.

Former Foreign Secretary and High Commissioner to India, Salman Bashir, stresses on persisting with “a principled approach in relations with India”. He warns that as period of uncertainty in ties could continue even after the new government is formed in Delhi.

The writer tweets @BaqirSajjad

Proliferation expert warns Saudi Arabia may recruit Pak nuclear scientists

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An expert on nuclear proliferation Mark Fitzpatrick on Thursday renewed fears of Saudi Arabia trying to get nuclear technology from Pakistan saying retired Pakistani nuclear scientists could be recruited by the Saudis.
“Its pretty clear that Saudi Arabia may be looking for a nuclear neutralizer with Iran … so some Pakistani retired scientists could be asked for help,” Mr Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program at the UK based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said at the launching of his book ‘Overcoming Pakistan nuclear dangers’ at the Institute of Strategic Studies.
Pak-Saudi bilateral ties have lately been on the upswing and Riyadh made an “unconditional gift” of $1.5 billion to help the economically struggling friend. The gift had led to questions about the Saudi generosity and the quid pro quo it could be expecting from Islamabad.
Pakistan is thought to be having the fastest growing nuclear program and is projected to become the world’s 4th or 5th country with the largest nuclear arsenal by 2020. Pakistani officials have been rejecting this impression.
Fitzpatrick referred to the media reports suggesting that Saudi Arabia had financed Pakistan’s nuclear program at the time of its inception and said that it could have come with implicit or explicit understanding that Pakistani nukes would be used for Saudi defense.
Fitzpatrick said Saudis were concerned about Iranian nuclear advances, but did not have a well developed infrastructure to start their own.
He said Saudis could either ask for off-the shelf nuclear weapons from Pakistan or demand ‘a nuclear umbrella’ arrangement’.
But, both options, he believed, were unfeasible for Pakistan because of fears of a domestic blow back, risk of spoiling relations with Iran and other economic and strategic disadvantages.
The proliferation expert opined that in this situation the Saudis could opt for retired Pakistan scientists.
A day earlier a former Pentagon official Peter Lavoy, who also has an intelligence background, had told a Conference in Islamabad that there were fears that Pakistan could return to proliferation. However, he had not elaborated the basis of the suspicion.

Is Ahrar-ul-Hind a Taliban ruse?

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Questions abound about the origins of the hitherto little known shadowy group Ahrar-ul-Hind (AuH) that claimed the responsibility of the deadly attack on federal capital’s district court complex.

Asad Mansoor, who claimed to be a spokesman of AuH, contacted media persons to say that the group was behind the attack in which 11 people including a lower judiciary judge was killed.
The setting up of AuH was announced last month as a splinter group of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), which was opposed to the militant outfit’s dialogue with the government.
The new groups’ founders had in a statement emailed to media in the first week of February said that their goal was enforcement of Shariah in the country.
“It is clear to us that TTP dialogue with the government would not lead of Shariah in the country and in case a deal is struck it would be only limited to tribal areas,” the statement had then said in an apparent reference to the formula agreed by government and TTP negotiators at their first meeting in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhawa House in Islamabad on February 6. One of the provisions of the formula had said that any settlement would be limited to insurgency hit areas.
AuH had importantly in its inception statement said that people in TTP remained their brothers despite the apparent split.
Though, the group introduced itself to media in first fortnight of February, a militant source said that “separation” happened when TTP Shoora met in January to deliberate on the government’s offer of peace talks and the setting up of four member committee by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for negotiations.
The militant source claimed that representatives of at least five of the affiliates had walked out of that meeting and vowed to continue militancy.
Security analysts are now trying to explore if the separation was real and a reaction by a segment of the Taliban against dialogue.
And as Long War Journal, a web site that provides reporting and analysis on global war on terror, said: “The formation of Ahrar-ul-Hind may also be a ruse by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in give it plausible deniability for any attacks its commanders execute during negotiations. Splinter jihadist groups are often formed in Pakistan, only to be reabsorbed after serving their purpose”.
It is particularly important to note that while AuH says that TTP men remain their brothers, TTP has avoided outrightly denouncing the Islamabad attack. While denying involvement of any of its sub-groups, the TTP statement said that finding the hands behind the attack was not their responsibility.
Debate about their continuing relationship with TTP aside, both militant sources and security officials confirmed that AuH mostly consists of Punjabi Taliban, who always maintained a close nexus with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Militants affiliated with the new group are based in urban cities of Punjab.
Moreover, there have been intelligence reports claiming that TTP had decided to transfer “the explosives and the bombers” to LeJ for continuing militant activities since the Lashkar was not part of the talks with the government.
These reports that were circulated among law enforcement agencies almost at the same time as announcement of AuH’s establishment need closer look and could explain the origins of the new group.
Even as the militant sources try to give impression that AuH is a newly formed splinter group compromising less influential elements of TTP, security analysts think that it would be difficult for a new group to plan and execute a sophisticated gun and bomb attack in a matter of couple of weeks without the support of an organized network.

Basit named high commissioner to India; FO moves past embarassing posting episode

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The government has named Ambassador Abdul Basit as the high commissioner to India, but left the United Kingdom position open.
Amb Basit, once tipped to become the foreign secretary in place of outgoing Jalil Abbas Jilani, would replace High Commissioner Salman Bashir in Delhi.
Amb Basit is currently the ambassador in Germany.
Pakistan government has written to Indian government for its consent to appointment of Amb Basit, which in diplomatic parlance is called Agrément.
No official announcement about the appointment has been made as yet, because in diplomatic traditions the ambassadorial appointments are not officially made public until the receipt of the ‘agrément’ from the host country.
This is the second time that Delhi has been asked for ‘agrément’ of a high commissioner for replacing Mr Bashir. Earlier, agrément was obtained for Mr Ibne Abbas, but the appointment was reversed because of institutional indecision that caused embarrassment both at home and abroad.
No one has, meanwhile, been picked for United Kingdom. Kamran Shafi had earlier been named as the High Commissioner in Britain and the government had requested for his agrément from London. However, the agrément request was later withdrawn apparently due to the pressure of military establishment, whom Mr Shafi had been criticizing in his writings.
Therefore, the incumbent Wajid Shamsul Hassan continues as the high commissioner.
In other appointments, High Commissioner in Singapore Hassan Javed has been named as next ambassador in Germany in place of Mr Basit.
Additional Secretary Americas Naghmana Hashmi has been picked as ambassador to Belgium and the EU.
Mr Aizaz Chaudhry, who has become the foreign secretary, was initially chosen for the Brussels assignment. Mr Chaudhry’s agrément from the Belgian appointment too had been received before he was given the top Foreign Service position.
In internal postings, Mr Aqil Nadeem has been appointed as additional secretary Special Projects, Amb Burhanul Islam as additional secretary of Iran-Turkey and ECO Division, and Ms Tasneem Aslam has been moved from Europe Division to UN Division.
Ms Aslam, who replaces Aizaz Chaudhry in the UN Division is in turn being replaced at Europe Division by Mr Nadeem Riaz, who was earlier director general China desk.
Additional Secretary Asia-Pacific Mr Murad Ali has been made director general of Foreign Service Academy and Mr Mohsin Razi has been given the charge of Asia-Pacific Division in his place.

Snafu over Foreign Secretary’s appointment

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The government looked hapless and inept when it had to change its nominee for foreign secretary at the proverbial last minute, because it all of a sudden dawned on it that its first choice – Ambassador Abdul Basit – was not senior enough to have been elevated.

The government after the snafu chose Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry to fill in the role.

This reflected leadership dysfunction and should not have occurred. It does not happen in this way in properly functioning organizations. The foreign ministry bosses, who had advised the government on outgoing foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani’s successor, had clearly not done their homework.

The entire episode has led to plenty of questions and speculations, but so far no real answers. The government didn’t either bother to find out how it all went wrong.

Apparently, Amb Chaudhry is all set to take over as the next foreign secretary in days ahead and is awaiting a formal notification from Establishment Division. But, the maneuverings in the Foreign Office that brought down Basit’s nomination are still at work, though their chances of succeeding again are quite slim.

The loophole infested and nepotism affected system of appointments at the Foreign Office was always due for a scrutiny. It looks that time has come.

After remaining quite for almost a week now, the FO is getting over the embarrassment as it offered first official comments on the affair, though in the context of ambassadorial appointments.

Remember, the government also had to reverse its nomination for Delhi Mr Ibne Abbas, because of the heartburn in FO over his posting, because he had remained at the headquarters for short a time before getting the prized posting.

Putting on a brave face, Amb Chaudhry, slated to become the next FS, said appointments are leadership’s prerogative. “I might add that sometimes unconfirmed reports appear in the media even before formal decisions are taken,” he added. He was speaking at his final weekly media briefing as the FO spokesman.

Its too easy to blame the media for being speculative in reporting. Good grief, so Basit entirely relied on unconfirmed media reporting before setting out for farewell calls. And what about the note that was sent to Berlin by the Foreign Secretary’s office that Jilani would leave on December 1 for Washignton and he (Basit) should plan his return accordingly?

Among the many questions out there, at the top of the list is how Basit was eliminated from the race.

Basit like Chaudhry was in BS-21 and was due to be promoted to BS-22 by a board that met late last month. First mishap happened when Establishment Division reduced the number of BS-22 positions for Foreign Service from 15 to 12, but the sloppy FO didn’t fight against the cut.

The board, which experts say was a ‘selection board’ not a ‘promotion board’ reportedly picked three for promotion and the openings had been filled up even before Basit could be considered.

But, even then there is precedence of promoting officers in anticipation of vacancies in future. In this instance, four openings are coming up in next four months. Had politics been not involved in blocking government’s choice, an insider said, the foreign ministry could have asked the board for promotions against the positions being vacated due to impending retirements of senior officers — Alamgir Babar (January), Akbar Zeb (February), Malik Abdullah (April) and Rizwanul Haq (April).

“The foreign ministry goofed up. Obviously they allowed it to happen because of internal politicking,” a Foreign Service officer said asking not to be named.

According to grapevine, the board was warned that not going by the seniority list could cause legal complications.

The second question is whether the intent was really to uphold seniority.

That’s presumably not the case here. While choosing Amb Aizaz Chaudhry as next FS, two officers, more senior to him Murad Ali and Seema Naqvi were bypassed.

Seniority is technically not a requirement for the top position that requires suitability in addition to seniority.

Outgoing foreign secretary Jilani was junior most in his batch at the time of his elevation. And so was Jilnai’s predecessor Salman Bashir.

It also needs to be remembered that the same board had superseded officers in other occupational groups – DMG, Accounts and Secretariat Group.

Pakistan’s overseas missions due for major change

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Leadership of country’s overseas diplomatic missions is set for a major overhaul next year due to completion of government’s tenure and impending retirement of number of senior Foreign Service officials.

“At least nine career ambassadors serving in missions abroad are set to retire in 2013,” a source said.

And add to that almost dozen and a half political ambassadors, who too, as per tradition would stand retired with the change in government.

Another twenty would be replaced as part of the routine rotation of the officers.

Pakistan has about 70 ambassadorial level missions abroad, which implies that almost half of the overseas missions would have new envoys.

Though number of officers retire every year, but what’s particularly interesting this time is that not only the number is on the higher side, but also some of the Foreign Service heavy weights would be reaching the retirement age.

Moreover, many of the major capitals abroad would fall vacant due to retirement of the political ambassadors serving there when the PPP government completes its tenure in the first part of next year.

The retiring career ambassadors include Mr Khalid Aziz Babar (Iran), Ms Fauzia Sana (The Netherlands), Mr Ishtiaq Andrabi (Norway), Mr Munawer Bhatti (Belgium), Mr Khurshid Anwar (Austria), Mr Haroon Shaukat (Turkey), Mr Zamir Akram (UN, Geneva) and Mr Irfan-ur-Rehman Raja (Greece).

The officer at the headquarters responsible for making all these postings, Mr Ikramullah Mehsud – Additional Secretary Administration – would himself retire next year.

Some of the important capitals where ambassadorial positions would fall vacant due to change of government include Washington, London, Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Moscow, Muscat, Kiev, Mexico City and Permanent Representative at the UN in New York.

“More reshuffling, more opportunities for young officers,” a career foreign service officer said when asked about the large scale changes likely to take place next year.

Another said: “One hope the changes create more opportunities for the cadres.”

In 80s Foreign Service officers would get ambassadorial assignments after serving for 17-20 years, but with increasing numbers now going to political appointees, career officers on average become ambassadors after 25 years of service. This has generated immense resentment among the cadres, not just because of the more years of service they have to put in before getting the assignment they longed for, but also due to the fact that most of the important stations go to political appointees.

Ambassadors proceeding to take up new assignments early next year include Syed Hassan Raza (Qatar), Mr Sarfraz Khanzada (Sudan), Mr Abrar Hussain (Kuwait), Mr Waheed-ul-Hassan (Morocco), Mr Iftikhar Aziz (Hungary), Mr Qasim Muttaki (Chile), Mr Riaz Bukhari (Uzbekistan), Dr Sohail Khan (Thailand), Mr Shahid Kayani (Malaysia) and Mr Ghalib Iqbal (France).

Almost a similar number would be rotated in the second part of next year.

Ambassador Burhan-ul-Islam has been posted back to headquarters from Chile, while Ambassador Tasneem Aslam has proceeded on long leave instead of resigning as she initially planned. Amb Aslam was upset over having been posted to Morocco from Italy.

Amb Khanzada was pre-maturely moved out of Qatar due to complaints by the community.

Politicization of Foreign Service

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Foreign Office statement on police raid on Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) offices in London has thrown open a debate within the country’s diplomatic service about its politicization, besides bringing into spotlight the role of political ambassadors.
The media statement issued almost a week ago was strongly opposed by the Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and number of other senior diplomats, but the government had its way.
“The presidency took the ultimate decision and we had to comply,” an official said adding that a line would have to be finally drawn between party politics and the State policy.
Following the police raid on MQM’s offices in Edgware London, the Foreign Office issued a statement reminding the British authorities that MQM was an important coalition partner of the ruling alliance in Pakistan and underscored its secular credentials. The pointed statement had hoped that “misgivings would be cleared”.
“Using the Foreign Service to speak for a coalition partner of the government is unadvisable as it contradicts the normal practice,” the official maintained.
The tradition is that diplomats, during the course of service, remain politically neutral and do not get engaged in politics.
But, interestingly the debate on the statement related to MQM is being used to draw attention towards a deeper malaise – the increased politicization of the Foreign Service due to political ambassadorial appointments. It is believed that High Commissioner in UK Mr Wajid Shamsul Hassan, a political ambassador, advised the government to veto the opposition from the FO over the statement and instead accommodate MQM.
“All such bright ideas come from the political envoys,” another Foreign Service official quipped pointing to the infamous Memo scandal that rocked the government last year.
Career diplomats say it’s not about the number of political ambassadors, but giving most of the major capitals to the political appointees is problematic.
Important stations like New York, London, Washington, Abu Dhabi, Paris and New Delhi all have political appointees.
PPP government has been quite particular about utilizing the unwritten twenty percent quota allocated for political appointments. It’s apparent that the government did not just use these appointments as pay-offs for the cronies, but kept a tab at developments taking place in important capitals worldwide by posting its confidants, who report directly to the Presidency instead of the Foreign Office.
“Political ambassadors quite often bypass the Foreign Secretary in many matters. Moreover, funds are spent unscrupulously and there are hundreds of audit paras pending with no resolution in sight,” an insider disclosed.
Beyond the differences over foreign policy operations, the political ambassadors are said to be posing challenges in day to day functioning of the foreign ministry like postings of officers.
Sharing such instances, a source cited the example of head of chancery in London, who had been posted on more than one occasions to Tehran, but the high commissioner was not relieving him.
Similarly, in another case Foreign Service officer Dr Asad Majeed was posted to Washington after tenure in New York, though under the rotation policy he was supposed to go from Category A station to Category B or C station and not from Category A to A.
Such cases, Foreign Service officials say, on one hand breed resentment among the officers awaiting posting, but at the same time induces officers posted in missions overseas to seek favours of their political bosses for continuing there.
There are examples of officers overstaying their normal periods of postings in missions headed by political ambassadors, while some of those, who have been assigned to those stations are not being allowed to join.
Deepening of political divisions among the diaspora at stations with political ambassadors is often quoted as a drawback of posting political appointees.
“Political appointees become ambassadors of the government party rather than the state. This works to further divide our diaspora along political lines.”

NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan: much tougher than it looks

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(My written statement for the Senate Standing Committee on Defense and Defense Production on Challenges for NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan)

While the world waits for peace and stability in Afghanistan, recent events in neighbouring war-torn country point towards more uncertainty.
Drawdown of coalition forces and handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces in different parts of the country, two processes happening simultaneously, are proceeding according to the roadmap agreed at North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Lisbon Summit in 2010 and re-emphasized at the 2012 Chicago Summit.
In certain cases, the withdrawal is taking place at an accelerated pace. France, the fifth largest troops’ contributor to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, is due to complete its pullout by the end of 2012, a year earlier than initially planned, whereas NATO has pulled back its deadline for completing transition from combat to training and assistance role; and putting Afghans in the lead security role by mid-2013.
Britain, according to some reports, too is debating plans for an accelerated withdrawal in 2013.
It is, at the same time, important to note that the withdrawal timescales are being revisited individually by ISAF member countries without necessarily coordinating their schedules with others.

Near term outlook for Afghanistan where Phase-I of transition has been completed and phases II & III are nearing completion — after which 75 per cent of the Afghan population would be living in areas with local security forces in the lead role — remains bleak.

The situation can be summed up as very fragile. To quote the International Crisis Group report launched this month: “Afghanistan is hurtling toward a devastating political crisis as the government prepares to take full control of security in 2014.”

The coalition forces have scaled down their goals for Afghanistan of 2014. Besides, agreeing on reducing the planned size of security forces, now there is little emphasis on good governance, strengthening of democracy, observance of human rights and girls education. Instead the entire talk is about leaving behind ‘a modicum of stability’.
The US and its partners have repeatedly reiterated their commitment to supporting post-2014 Afghanistan, but there have been doubts about the materialization of those pledges because of their war weary publics and tightening budgets. Sudden dip in planned expenditures on security to $4-$6 billion per annum after 2014 from $100 billion per year in the preceding period is hardly reassuring.
Americans have signed Strategic Partnership Agreement with the Afghan government while NATO has its Declaration on Enduring Partnership with Kabul. Both documents are meant to assure the Afghans of a long-term partnership after 2014, but in any case their operationalization depends much on how things shape up as we move to 2014 and beyond.
However, there are few silver linings to this otherwise gloomy scenario – a semblance of a democratic system has been established; institutions, though flawed, are working, the Afghan state appears to be finding its feet, Afghan National Army is growing and improving its capabilities, a better ethnic mix can be seen in ANA ranks, and desertion rates from the security forces are declining.
Taliban, meanwhile, have stepped up their attacks and so have the casualties risen. There is a perceptible change in Taliban tactics with an increased focus on assassinating senior and mid-ranking Afghan government officials. According to a ball park estimate such attacks have increased by almost 55 per cent this year compared to last year. The Taliban strategy could be to test the preparedness of the Afghan security forces taking over security responsibilities, inculcating fear among the Afghan government functionaries, and at times trying to regain control of areas they lost to coalition forces.
The intensification in fighting and the resultant surge in casualties aside, NATO’s exit strategy is visibly missing an acceptable closure to its war on terror. There have been a number of attempts at reconciliation with the Taliban, but they have been largely unsuccessful because the insurgents have been emboldened by the very fact that the coalition is not winning and is more interested in packing up.
The coalition would not have a cakewalk moving out about 1,30,000 troops from 50 countries and mountains of military hardware from Afghanistan. It is going to be a Herculean logistics exercise, which may continue beyond 2014 and probably security of the returning convoys could be one other important compulsion for US and its allies to have a political accommodation with the Taliban.
Lack of clarity on part of the Afghan government about the process and near absence of consensus within Afghanistan on reconciling with the insurgents is hurting the process most.
Equally important is that NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan which is being seen as a litmus test for the transatlantic politico-military alliance to succeed beyond Europe. Its failure would severely undermine its credibility vis-à-vis Russia and China, and perhaps Iran for long time to come, if not permanently.
And one cannot take eye off from the regional implications of NATO’s withdrawal particularly for Pakistan. The security situation on the borders of Afghanistan would have important bearing on efforts for peace and stability inside the country (Afghanistan) and in the same measure the internal Afghan situation would affect the security of the neighbours.
The absence of a plan for the region, in which the strategic interests of the neighbours could be adequately accommodated to incentivize their whole-hearted participation in the peace and reconciliation process, is undermining both immediate and long-term prospects for settlement.

The Roadmap for Transition.
Currently phases II & III of transition of security responsibilities to Afghan security forces are underway. After completion of these phases 75 per cent of the Afghan population would be living in areas where the local forces play a lead role in decision-making, planning, coordinating and conducting security operations.
As the Afghan forces assume the lead role, the coalition troops move towards an advisory and supportive role.
Phase I, which was completed on July 24, 2011 with the handover of Panjshir province to Afghan security forces, included the following regions:-
Bamyan province
Kabul province, with the exception of Surobi district
Panjshir province
Herat city (capital of Herat province)
Lashkar Gah (capital of Helmand province)
Mazar-e-Sharif (capital of Balkh province)
Mehtar Lam (capital of Laghman province).

The Afghan government announced Phase II on November 27, 2011, which is expected to continue well into 2013. Phases I and II together make for the area inhabited by 50 per cent of the Afghan population. The areas included in the second tranche of transition are:

• The provinces of Balkh, Daykundi, Takhar, Samangan, Nimroz and the remainder of Kabul province.
• The cities of Jalalabad, Chaghcharan (Ghor province), Sheberghan (Jawzjan province), Feyzabad (Badakhshan province), Ghazni (Ghazni province), Maidan Shar (Wardak province) and Qala-e-Now (Badghis province).
The districts of:

• Yaftal Safli, Arghanj, Baharak, Tashkan, Keshem and Argu in Badakhshan province
• Abkamari in Badghis province
• Nawah and Nad-e-Ali in Helmand province
• All districts of Herat province except for Shindand district, Obi and Chisht Sharif.
• Qarghai in Laghman province
• Behsud, Quskunar and Sorkhrud districts of Nangarhar province
• All districts of Parwan province except for Shiwari and Siahgherd
• All districts of Sar-e-Pul province except for Sayyad
• Districts of first part of Behsud, Jelriz and centre of Behsud in Wardak province.

While the second phase was still in progress, President Hamid Karzai on May 13, 2012 announced the third part of the handover covering provinces of Uruzgan, Kapisa and Parwan and some of the other parts of the provinces like Helmand where transition had begun in earlier phases.
Together the first three phases cover 11 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.
The first two phases were relatively easier, while the process would become more challenging from third stage onwards.
Stages IV and V have not been announced yet. But, given NATO’s new deadline of putting the Afghans in lead role by 2013 it is expected that the penultimate and the final parts would be announced by the start of middle of next year.
The explanation from NATO for what appears to be a rush through the process is that for transition to complete by end of 2014, the Afghan security forces must be in lead role sometime in 2013. The NATO experience shows that it may take another year to year-and-a-half to fully withdraw from the combat role.
In a rather upbeat assessment of the progress in transition, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in an Op-Ed for The Telegraph on October 22 wrote:
“The transfer of security responsibility has acquired real momentum. It is being managed carefully, step by step. It is well advanced in Kabul, Herat in the west and Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, where we traveled. There, Afghan troops and police are in the lead for security. Indeed, they have the lead for security in areas where three quarters of the Afghan population lives – and in those areas, the security situation has remained stable or improved.”
Mr Rasmussen further noted that during his recent most visit to Afghanistan he had noted among the Afghan leadership a “clear sense of their determination to make transition a success”.
A more cautious assessment has been given by ISAF Strategic Transition Group, according to which the first two phases have proceeded well, but there could be challenges as the process moves into the third stage.
Alongside the handover of the security responsibilities, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) have also begun shifting their focus from direct delivery to strengthening the capacity of the local authorities.
With the completion of the transition process, ISAF expects to have also completed transfer of all functions of PRTs to the government, NGOs and private sector.

The Challenges Ahead:
The biggest and the foremost challenge is that, despite temporary setbacks; motivation, resource base and tactical ability of the Taliban remains intact. Moreover, the insurgents are not too keen about a negotiated settlement of the issue.
A leaked NATO report titled ‘State of Taliban 2012’ had given a somewhat similar reading: “Despite numerous tactical setbacks, surrender is far from their collective mindset. For the moment, they believe that continuing the fight and expanding Taliban governance are their only viable courses of action.”

The situation does not augur well for the end game being envisioned for the war ravaged country as Taliban and other militant factions instead of engaging in a meaningful dialogue are more interested in seeing the coalition forces off. It isn’t only a strategic calculation of the Taliban leadership, but ordinary people in Afghanistan are reportedly thinking alike as a result of which Taliban ranks, in some areas, are swelling in anticipation of their return to power.
There are several reasons for the apparent advantage being enjoyed by the Taliban. First of all their resource supply infrastructure has largely remained unaffected. Secondly, corruption and poor governance by the Afghan government is creating a feeling of disenchantment among the general public, who then look towards the Taliban as an alternative. And thirdly there is hardly any tangible incentive being offered to the Taliban for joining the national reconciliation. Afghan government and the High Peace Council, which is driving the process, lack consensus on how to proceed with the peace talks and whom to reach out to.
“In the last year there has been unprecedented interest, even from Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) members, in joining the insurgent cause. Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over GIRoA, usually as a result of government corruption, ethnic bias and lack of connection with local religious and tribal leaders. The effectiveness of Taliban governance allows for increased recruitment rates which, subsequently, bolsters their ability to replace losses,” the leaked NATO report had stated.

Setting of 2014 deadline for pull-out by NATO due to domestic compulsions of the ISAF troops contributing countries hardly helped the cause.
The Taliban look pretty confident that Afghan security forces would not be strong enough to hold on to the areas coalition forces would handover to them. They have in fact already started testing the capacity of the local troops as shown by some of the recent insurgent attacks.
There is hardly any doubt that the Taliban, at present, are interested in any sort of political engagement because their attitude towards some of the initiatives in recent past showed that they were primarily readying themselves for post-2014 Afghanistan.
Deepening ethnic divide due to politics of patronage is another challenge.
Governance and development do not inspire much hope either. At the root of all these problems is the rampant corruption in the public sector. It is argued that there is little hope of things improving in the near future. Presidential elections slated for spring of 2014 don’t hold out any real prospects of a change. It is widely speculated that President Karzai’s brother Abdul Qayyum would replace him in the presidency – something being implied as continuity of the existence style of governance.

Other than creating sympathy for Taliban, corruption would have far-reaching consequences for the Afghan society that may need foreign assistance for significantly long time.
International community may have pledged $16 billion for the next four years for economic development of Afghanistan, but realization of those promises is subject to several conditions including ending corruption, improving governance standards and establishing rule of law.

The Afghan government is not alone to be blamed for poor governance and lack of development. The thrust of ISAF forces has all along been on security and not improving governance.
The coalition till 2011 spent $444 billion on war, while only $47 billion were made available in development assistance to the country ruined by war – much of which was siphoned off because of absence of strong checks.

Afghan security forces may be growing and improving, but there are questions regarding their sustainability and equipping them adequately. There is hardly any clarity about what would happen beyond the four years for which the international community has committed $4.6 billion per annum. This question is particularly important because Afghanistan, as of today, does not have enough resources to be able to foot such a massive defence bill.

Insider attacks, what’s more commonly known as green on blue attacks, pose the other major challenge as international forces plan to leave. The blue print for the transition process was that Afghans would take over the lead role, while the foreign troops would switch over to advisory and training support for building the capacity of the local troops. However, sudden surge in insider attacks, attributed mostly to personal grievances of the Afghan soldiers against their mentors, has led to the suspension of the trainings. Professional standards of the soldiers may fall if this suspension continues for a prolonged period. Already, reports about none of the Afghan battalions being able to operate independently are anything but comforting.

Such attacks have been happening since 2003, but got the media spotlight this year because of sudden spike. About 118 casualties have been reported so far (since 2003), almost half of them this year.

Deaths of soldiers because of insider attacks was always a cause of concern, but recent most incidents of Afghans killing their colleagues and seniors in the forces is shocking – it would only compound the problems.

The insider attacks and the resulting casualties, other than having a demoralizing impact on the foreign troops serving in Afghanistan and adding to distrust between them and the local soldiers, has started to further weaken the political support for the war in troops contributing countries.

Role of Taliban infiltration in these attacks may not all that be significant, but they have been used by the insurgents as a psychological and propaganda tool to suggest to the Afghan public, where literacy rate is dismal 28 per cent, that the tide of the war was turning in their favour.

Equally disconcerting are the rivalries between Afghan army, the police and other security services.

The global economic slowdown coupled with loss of public interest in countries contributing to ISAF operations have been the major deciding factors behind what apparently looks to be the rush to exits.

Two major European military powers, UK and France, did not increase their defence spending. They are instead cutting public expenditure to reduce their respective budget deficits.

US economy is also under pressure. Should Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate win, the US defence budget may go up but the Republicans may still not want to go for another military surge in Afghanistan due to erosion of domestic appetite.

Pakistan’s role in the peace process has always been considered as critical due to the historical cultural, religious and ethnical linkages between Pashtuns residing on both sides of the border, Pakistan hosting millions of Afghan refugees for a long time, many of whom are still here, and the relationship Taliban leadership had with Islamabad while in power before 2001.
However, the current unease in Pak-Afghan bilateral relations, due to presence of terrorist sanctuaries in each other’s territory, cross border raids by militants into Pakistan, high profile Taliban attacks inside Afghanistan and unfilled Afghan expectations of Islamabad’s help in bringing the insurgents to the negotiating table, is proving to be a major impediment in way of taking the political process forward.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US had in April this year set up two groups to provide safe passage to the reconcilable Taliban and delisting the leaders agreeing on reconciliation from the UN Security Council sanctions list.
The group on safe passage met in September and left it to Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss the modalities. However, no progress could be made because of the pending visit of High Peace Council chief Salahuddin Rabbani to Pakistan for the talks.

Pakistan government had earlier launched an appeal for all militant groups to join the intra-Afghan dialogue. The two countries had in 2011 also set up a joint commission for peace and reconciliation.

But, on the ground there has been little forward movement due to the lingering mistrust between the two and perhaps because of Kabul’s bloated expectations of how much Pakistan can help. Islamabad did have certain level of influence over the Taliban, but that has gradually diminished over the years. Today Taliban are skeptical about Pakistan’s role and may not be willing to do Islamabad’s bidding.

The proposed Pak-Afghan Strategic Agreement, which is being midwifed by the West, may help by providing for enhanced military to military and intelligence to intelligence contacts through which the two sides may be able to deal with some of the core issues bedeviling their relationship.

The huge logistic exercise for taking back the military hardware that has accumulated in Afghanistan over the past decade of war on terror has not been able to get the attention of the Pakistani media which remained obsessed with the closing and reopening of Ground Lines of Communications – more commonly called NATO supply routes – through Pakistan in the aftermath of November 2011 Salala incident.

The task of removing the war gear from Afghanistan is cumbersome because Afghanistan is a landlocked country and the equipment would have to be shipped out via Pakistan or the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). US/NATO has already struck a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan, while some of the agreements relate to the NDN.

The numbers are simply formidable. Exact details of how much equipment the US would be taking out may still not be known, but the very fact that they would be spending about $30 billion on shipments gives a fair idea.

According to a research paper prepared for the British parliament, UK, the second highest ISAF troops contributing country, would be taking out 11,000 containers and around 3,000 armoured vehicles while Germany will be bringing back more than 1,700 vehicles, howitzers and tanks.
The French withdrawal plan involves repatriating military equipment including 900 armoured vehicles and over 1,000 containers.

It is evident that some of the inventories would be handed over to the Afghan security forces. But, any decision on what has to be left behind would be challenging one for a variety of reasons including the fear of that equipment, all of which is state of the art and best of its kind available with armies around the world, falling in the hands of Taliban; the ability of the Afghan forces to maintain that equipment; and the resources required for their sustainability.

If history was to serve as any indicator, the withdrawal would be far more complex than anyone could imagine. The Brits, while pulling out in 1842 lost thousands of soldiers, while the Soviets in 1989 had to struggle for months moving out, losing lives of dozens of its soldiers in the process.

Withdrawing without a political settlement could be very tricky. The convoys and the troops guarding them could be vulnerable to Taliban attacks while moving out of Afghanistan. The only other option left with the coalition forces would be to bribe local commanders for the safety of their consignments and the men accompanying them. According to a conservative estimate Taliban commanders are already earning up to $144 million per annum as protection money for (in-bound) NATO supplies passing through the areas controlled by them.

Implications for the Region:

Though several scenarios have been drawn for post-2014 Afghanistan, the most plausible one, in the absence of an imminent political deal, is that of protracted unrest and continuing instability. The reason being that no one expects Afghan security forces to dislodge the Taliban from their strongholds, from where even NATO would have failed to evict them. Therefore, it is logical to expect a long-term stalemate.

This anarchy, if it happens, would be destabilizing for the entire region, more particularly for Pakistan.

But, the drawdown plans are inherently flawed in that they are Afghanistan specific and do not look at the situation from the regional perspective.

Afghanistan’s both immediate and far neighbours have stakes in peaceful and stable Afghanistan. However, because of divergent interests these neighbours are often at cross-purposes competing for influence and often undermining the prospects of peace.

NATO’s exit strategy should therefore have looked at the regional dynamics and addressed the concerns of various players so that they could positively contribute to the peace efforts.

Other than the feared security fallout, instability in Afghanistan would have serious economic repercussions for the region.

Important regional players in Afghanistan include India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Turkey.

India:

India has traditionally had strong relations with Afghanistan. It has been trying to rebuild its influence in the country since the fall of Taliban and has provided generous assistance to reconstruction and development projects, besides investing in mining and steel industry. India has also been involved in training Afghan intelligence and security forces and has signed Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan. Trade between India and Afghanistan has been growing.

India’s interest in Afghanistan has two basic objectives – first to counter Pakistani influence and secondly to access Central Asian market for trade and energy.

Pakistan:

Pakistan’s future is intertwined with that of Afghanistan. Pakistan has been a significant regional donor for Afghanistan and had at Tokyo Conference in July this year pledged $20 million assistance for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Bilateral trade between the two countries has grown significantly and the two are expecting to have Strategic Partnership Agreement next year.

However, strategic differences have continued to create hurdles in growth of ties. It is feared that an unstable Afghanistan could lead to influx of refugees, intensify extremism and militancy in Pakistan, aggravate the problem of narcotics, and further debilitate the already ailing economy.

Iran:

Iran’s agenda in Afghanistan is primarily anti-US. Tehran has strong linkages with Tajiks and Hazaras, but has also maintained close linkages with Taliban to hurt American interests. Iran has been expanding its sphere of influence in Afghanistan.

Iran’s long-term objectives are to counter narcotics and use Afghanistan as an energy corridor for reaching China.

Tehran also shares Beijing’s concerns of long-term US presence in the region.

Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia enjoys ideological influence over Taliban and has tried to use that for reconciliation between Karzai government and the fighters.

There are apprehensions that Iran, India and Russia may form an alliance because of their convergences on Afghanistan. In such an eventuality Saudi Arabia could back Pakistan.

China:

China maintains a modest aid portfolio in Afghanistan and has stakes in oil and gas exploration, communications and copper mining. Beijing is wary of Taliban’s return to power, but has kept itself away from security affairs of Afghanistan.

China also eyes Afghanistan as a route for tapping into energy-rich Central Asia and Iran.

Russia:

Russia fears that unstable Afghanistan could spread militancy to Central Asia and the narco-trade may increase.
It is apprehensive of both Taliban returning to power and US maintaining bases. Moscow is therefore interested in a moderate and stable Afghanistan. And it was in this context that it (Moscow) started rebuilding ties with Pakistan.

Turkey:

Turkey has reinforced its influence in Afghanistan and has its troops taking care of security in Kabul. Istanbul Process is working for a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan in a secure and stable region. Besides, Turkey has a trilateral engagement with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Whither parliamentary recommendations

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Starting off from high moral grounds with the demand for an apology for the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops in the Salala ‘accident’ (now I would say), the Pakistan government ended up accepting that its military also contributed to the circumstances leading to the Nov 26 incident.

True, the standoff over supply routes was not advisable and something Pakistan could have ill afforded. But, the manner in which the entire thing happened was one of the biggest diplomatic retreats by Islamabad in recent times. This left everyone, even the supporters of good relations with the US, confused and bewildered.

The journey from Pakistan Army’s insistence that the “Salala incident was deliberate” to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s conversation with Hillary Clinton in which both “acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives” was long and troubling. It not only threatened Pakistan’s interests abroad, but cost both the political and military leadership credibility.

If it was known that there were mistakes on the part of the Pakistani forces than why did we take the confrontation with the US to these levels? No one in Islamabad or Rawalpindi is interested in answering that. What they would, at best do is play around with the interpretation of Secretary Clinton’s statement.

But, more important than the debate over whether the word “sorry” satisfied the demand for apology; and if the permission to transport lethal equipment consigned for Afghan security forces was in conformity with the parliamentary resolution; it is now time to deliberate as to what extent the Pakistani side itself followed/respected the much cherished parliamentary resolution of April 12, 2012.

The parliamentary resolution had clearly stated the SOPs for making new agreements/MoU with any foreign government that included vetting by Law ministry, circulation of the draft of the accord among members of the parliament’s committee on national security, approval by the federal cabinet and a policy statement by the concerned federal minister in both houses of the parliament. As I understand, the resumption of Nato supplies happened under a new agreement. Was the proper procedure recommended by the parliament’s joint sitting followed? Certainly not. The federal cabinet too was briefed about the decision taken by the Defense Committee of the Cabinet a day after for its concurrence.

Secretary Clinton’s statement on having been assured about the reopening of routes while the DCC meeting was in progress left no doubt that the decision had already been taken and the session was a mere formality.

Clinton’s rush to making the announcement on routes knowing that Pakistan’s military and political leadership were meeting to take the decision revealed the underlying mistrust between the two allies. She clearly did not want to take the risk of leaving the final announcement to the Pakistani leaders once she had said “sorry”.

The whole debate would now come down to what forced Pakistan to climb down from its initial demands. Fear of isolation, losing its role in the Afghan endgame, aggravating the economy; and the threats of designating Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba as terrorist organisations – a move that would have had serious repercussions for Pakistan, all contributed to the decision to allow reopening the supply routes.

As I conclude, I remember one of my sources telling me almost 10 days ago that the deadline for concluding a deal was July 4. I regret not having paid attention to that, but now I understand that some of the above listed fears could have materialised if the leadership would have delayed it further.

Moral: Never bite off more than you can chew.

Chicago fiasco

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President Asif Ali Zardari’s calculations for Chicago seem to have backfired badly, and the participation in NATO summit on an ‘unconditional invitation’, which was hailed by the government’s media managers as a diplomatic success soon turned into a disaster.

Mr Zardari may have better heeded his advisors, who were opposed to attending the Chicago event on a last minute ticket, and could have sent Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in his place given that an agreement on re-opening of NATO ground supply routes by the start of summit was not coming forth.

Participation at ministerial level may have served the purpose of signaling Pakistan’s commitment to Afghanistan, but would have at the same time avoided the embarrassment caused by the cold reception and bad press presidential entourage received during stay in the US.

The president, besides meeting his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, had to sit in a session with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was technically FM Khar’s equivalent. Moreover, President Obama met him fleetingly and there was no word of appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror.

The invitation, which was earlier drummed by the government as unconditional, had clearly hinged on the understanding that the Pakistani president would land in Chicago with the accord on routes in his hand. Statements from Foreign Minister Khar and the Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) that came before and after the invitation left no doubt with the hosts that an announcement on routes suspended since last November attack was imminent.

Former Foreign Secretary Tanvir Ahmed Khan fears that Pakistan may emerge as “net loser” after the Chicago fiasco. Islamabad’s voice, he opined, could get considerably weakened and it may lose control over developments in Afghanistan.

The question that is now on the minds of diplomatic observers in Islamabad is that how Mr Zardari, an astute politician, got it wrong.

A source, who was familiar with the strategy for Chicago, disclosed in private discussions that the president had left with the hope of a breakthrough in his meetings with the US leadership.

“He was very determined, but was constrained to remain within the limits set by the parliament,” he added.

At the meetings Mr Zardari had with Secretary Clinton and President Obama both sides stuck to their positions with little progress.

Pakistani side wants an apology for the Salala incident, end to drone attacks, coalition support fund reimbursement and a revised fee structure for the use of land routes for sustaining coalition forces in Afghanistan.

A Foreign Office official claimed that impasse could not be resolved at the political meetings because of US inflexibility. The Americans, it is believed, failed to comprehend the signal from the DCC regarding its direction for the negotiators to complete their negotiations and hence did not suitably reciprocate.

As Pakistani officials sit for retrospection they admit their faults in handling the protracted parliamentary review process and the apology that was once on offer, but at the same time say Chicago was not “a complete failure” and a “total waste”.

Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, who heads a local think tank Center for International Strategic Studies, shares this view.

For Ambassador Naqvi Chicago brought mixed results for Pakistan. On one hand, he agrees Pakistani delegation was cold shouldered for having failed to reopen routes, while on the other participation in the NATO event provided opportunity for the country’s leaders to articulate their position.

He hoped that participation would have salutary effect in due course.