US President Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari met shortly on Monday on the sidelines of the NATO summit, but made no progress towards resolving their diplomatic standoff over land route for allied forces battling in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s hard stance on resumption of supplies for foreign forces threatened to outshine the American President’s efforts on the last day of the NATO summit to finalize plans of withdrawing international troops from Afghanistan.
While addressing to more than 50 world leaders, President Obama expressed his frustration at what aides view as Pakistani inflexibility by publicly offering thanks to Russia and other Central Asian countries for providing critical transit of war supplies into Afghanistan in the six months since Pakistan closed its ground routes following the NATO attacks that killed 24 Pakistani troops.
While speaking to the media, Obama said the United States and Pakistan were making diligent progress on a deal. However, he clarified that he was not looking resolution of the dispute during the NATO summit.
The deadlock over the land route for NATO forces has distracted from a carefully choreographed moot in which Islamabad and Washington understood the strained relations.
President Obama observed, “We didn’t anticipate that the supply line issue was going to be resolved by this summit. We knew that before we arrived in Chicago. But we are actually making diligent progress on it”.
He further stated that they need to work through some of the tensions that have inevitably arisen after one decade of their military presence in the region.
Earlier US media had reported that President Obama was struggling to balance the American ties with two crucial but difficult allies.
Pakistan is not a NATO member but was invited to the summit because of its influence in next-door Afghanistan and its role until last year as the major supply route to landlocked NATO forces there. Pakistan closed those routes after a U.S. attack on the Pakistani side of the border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
The last-minute invitation from NATO to join the Chicago talks was a sign of hope that the rift had healed. But it hasn’t. And Obama’s dealings with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari made that clear on Monday.