Sunday, February 7, 2010
Nato keen to broaden dialogue with Pakistan’
ISLAMABAD: Robert Simmons, Nato Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, says that Nato is very keen to broaden its dialogue with the Pakistan government even though they have a good ongoing dialogue with Pakistan’s military.
Simons, a familiar face for those on the diplomatic watch in Islamabad, was well liked by all while working at the US Embassy and today confessed when he heard the news of the Benazir Bhutto’s murder, he cried out loud.
Talking to the Pakistani media at a dinner in a restaurant overlooking the brightly lit Bhosphourous Sea, on the sidelines of the Nato Defence Minister’s meeting, Simmons was at pains to point out, “The message we have for Pakistan is that there should be broader than just the military-to-military relations, which are good. There is a Nato liaison officer in the Turkish Embassy in Islamabad as well for better contacts”. He said the active Nato-Pakistan political dialogue has seen with President Asif Ali Zardari visiting the Nato headquarters and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qurieshi is also expected soon. Besides, there have been visits by parliamentarians and journalists.
Nato welcomes Pakistan’s military and government efforts while taking on the Taliban in a military operation. “We hope that this combination work of civil and military can move forward to deal with the situation. Our dialogue with Pakistan does not mean we apply pressure. We do not have a solution but would like Pakistan to take on all the terrorists”, he added.
NATO SUPPLIES ROUTE: Eighty per cent of Nato supplies for ISAF go through Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s security for the Nato supplies has improved and more go through than not. A couple of shipments do get blown up. There is an increase demand for equipment going through and it is not a competitive process to look for other routes but rather looking for alternative routes. We will continue to send substantive goods through Pakistan,” he assured.
Nato follows carefully the proliferation issue and the missile programme of Iran. “The nuclear programme is a matter of concern and this make dialogue with Iran on Afghanistan more difficult. But we do have a small dialogue with them on Afghanistan”, he added.
Simmons says that they have a limited dialogue with India, whose main interest is what and how Nato is doing inside Afghanistan.
“India’s reactions are more reactive. But I feel that India’s role inside Afghanistan against Pakistan is exaggerated and we would not like these kind of difficult relations to hinder work inside Afghanistan. We hear both sides and this is the best approach. We are not shopping around for crisis”, he said.
Simmons also did not appear very impressed by the development work that India is carrying on inside Afghanistan and says that it is not on such a large scale.
INDIAN CONSULATES IN AFGHANISTAN:
“We are aware of Pakistan’s concerns but these are a bit overdrawn. These consulates are not manned heavily and probably involved in intelligence gathering. We do not see them as Pakistan sees them and they are not a threat to Pakistan’s security. It is up to the Afghanistan government to deliver on this”, he says.
He agreed that this was a point that General Kayani raised at the Nato during his visit. “We heard him”, was all that Simmons was willing to comment.
Simons appears disappointed at the governance of President Karzai but then says that Nato is not responsible and in reality the process is not going forward as it would want it to.
“The London Conference made it clear to Karzai that he has to carry forward this process effectively and we hold him to that”, he said.
Relations with Russia are going on well and the Nato would like to see Russian contribution in different fields but certainly no contribution to troops, which is not welcomed by the Afghans.