Observers say NATO supplies could resume soon | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 02.07.2012
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Observers say NATO supplies could resume soon

Pakistani defense experts say signs of a thaw in relations between Washington and Islamabad are emerging as the two countries are making final attempts to strike a deal on resuming the NATO supply line.

Pakistan's foreign ministry officials said on Monday that there had been progress on the issue of resuming a key NATO supply line to Afghanistan.

Islamabad had blocked the supply route in retaliation for the NATO airstrike near the Afghan border last November that resulted in the death of 24 of its soldiers. US-Pakistani ties have been at their lowest level ever since.

Separate probes by the Pentagon and NATO into the lethal strike revealed that inadequate coordination and a lack of "fundamental trust" had led to the tragedy. No apology was handed over to Islamabad. For its part, the Pakistani government rejected the findings and demanded that the US and NATO apologize.

Desperate measures

General John Allen

General John Allen is trying to broker a deal between Washington and Islamabad

On Sunday, Thomas Nides, the US Deputy Secretary of State; General John Allen, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan; and Cameron Munter, the US Ambassador to Pakistan held high-level talks with the Pakistani civilian and military officials in Islamabad.

Pakistani defense experts said the fact that General Allen has visited Pakistan twice in four days was proof that Washington and Islamabad were desperately trying to find a mutually beneficial solution to this issue.

Government officials in Islamabad said that a decision on the resumption of the supply route was likely to be made after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari returned from his UK tour.

Domestic pressure on government

The Zardari-led Pakistan People's Party government faces immense political pressure from opposition parties, including hard-line Islamist groups, on the issue of NATO supply route.

Leaders of Pakistani religious parties stage a protest against the possible resumption of NATO supplies in Islamabad

Islamists in Pakistan oppose opening the border to NATO convoys

Ayaz Amir, a Pakistani legislator, told DW that it would not be easy for the Pakistani government to resume NATO supplies.

"Islamist groups have warned the government of dire consequences if it tried to reopen the NATO supply line to Afghanistan. The government will have to take people into confidence before opening the supply route."

Naseer Bhatta, member of Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's opposition Pakistan Muslim League, told DW that if the government wanted to take a decision on this matter, it had to get an approval from parliament.

"It would be unfortunate if NATO supplies were reopened without the consent of the people. They should not be resumed until NATO tenders an apology to Pakistan," he said.

However, Najam Rafique, Director of the Institute of Strategic Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, told DW that the protests against possible supply reopening would eventually die down.

Author: Shakoor Rahim / shs
Editor: Sarah Berning

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