WASHNGTON: Pakistan on Monday emphasized the importance of an “appropriate” American apology over Salala incident to move forward the relationship as Islamabad’s ambassador in Washington Sherry Rehman sought greater appreciation of the Pakistani perspective on the fight against terror.
Speaking at a conference on the Captiol Hill, the Pakistani envoy also called for respect for her country’s sovereignty and an end to US drone strikes on Pakistani territory.In her speech, Ambassador Rehman said once the two countries surmount current challenges in the relationship, they have a lot to gain from a mutually productive and respectful relationship.
Islamabad, she said, had not closed the NATO supply lines into landlocked Afghanistan to ‘price-gouge’ but after the Salala incident, “These (ground lines of communication) were closed following the Salala incident and remain closed pending a US apology. The debate on the matter has been wrongly cast as a price hagcastgle or price gouging in the US media. This is not the case.”
“We want our American friends to respect our sovereignty and territorial integrity. This means no drone attacks and no incursions into Pakistani territory,” she said at a conference organized by the Pakistani-American Congress.
“An appropriate apology for the Salala incident of 26 November 2011 in which twenty four Pakistani soldiers were killed in a US air attack is also needed,” she said.
She said a better understanding of Pakistani point of view in the United States about Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in fighting extremism would help the cause of the relationship. At present, she said, the two sides are in a critical phase of re-framing our terms of engagement.
“I hope we can narrow our differences and move expeditiously forward. In the context of our region, Pakistan and the United States working individually, are a lot less effective than the sum of the two working together.”
Both countries, the ambassador said, “need to focus on the positives, try to understand each other’s narratives, show understanding for each other’s priorities and constraints, and treat each other as sovereign nations engaged as partners in the defining struggle of our times defeating terrorism.”
“We on the Pakistan side are trying to do so. We urge our friends on the US side to make a similar commitment. The first step in that direction must be to stay away from coercive diplomacy through the media.”
US Coordinator Robin R Raphael, said the US is conscious of the sacrifices Pakistan has rendered in fighting terrorists. She said, the US-Pakistan relationship is challenging relationship but Washington is committed to having lasting and strategic ties with the South Asian country.
She appreciated Rehman’s efforts towards building the ties. The headlines may be negative, she said, but added there are myriad of opportunities for more success through cooperative efforts in the years ahead so that Pakistani people can achieve economic development.