The news buzz of the week is that Pakistan has not been invited to the NATO Summit taking place in Chicago this month. According to reports, this May 20-21 two-day summit, with over 60 heads of state and governments, is expected to be the biggest NATO summit in history. The agenda includes likely discussion on impacts of recent events such as the Arab Spring, Libyan civil war, global financial crisis, and transition for NATO forces in Afghanistan. As explained here, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen mentions:
“This will be a summit of commitment. Commitment to complete transition in Afghanistan. Commitment to strengthen even further the connections with our partners across the globe”.
Not getting invited to the NATO summit in Chicago means that Pakistan will not be able to defend its priorities while crucial decisions are being made. It is a platform where concerns will be aired from all sides but Pakistan’s absence from that forum will only prove to be one less chance for dialogue between US and Pakistan. Of special interest to Pakistan would be withdrawal of Allied/US troops from Afghanistan.
AVM Shahzad Chaudhry writes in his column:
“Any reason given to the American military machine to hang on to Afghanistan means a continuation of the war and the associated strife; which really means Pakistan remains in the hot-house that it has been in ever since this war against terror began. I mean that much more in the socioeconomic sense, which then becomes the perpetuating factor of both the war and the associated socioeconomic strife by providing easy recruits out of an increasingly dispossessed population. Obviously we want out of this dark hole.”
It goes without saying that U.S is upset at Pakistan for not taking more action against the Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent group based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, that sneaks regularly into Afghanistan and carries out assaults against US bases. Tie this in with Salala incident and lacks of apology from Obama administration and you have an upset Pakistan. Furthermore, this week the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said:
Pakistan needs to make sure that its territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks anywhere.
Needless to say, this further sparked the US Pakistan severe in ties.
Whether the Americans stay or go, Afghanistan will remain. We can’t really afford to alienate the world’s last super power, but we certainly can’t afford to alienate our neighbors and thus miss opportunity for further growth of mutually beneficial cooperation and understanding in various fields, which form an integral part of the larger effort of building the nation’s capabilities through economic development and well-being of the people.
The obvious conclusion that we can draw from all this is that international summits are extremely important because they bring countries together such and make discussions possible on issues that might otherwise be sidelined for individual interests. The upcoming NATO summit could have been an opportunity for Pakistan to interact with NATO member states to discuss economic development, common purpose and motivate the alliance to explore future opportunities for cooperation. Pakistan’s best interests can be found in developing positive working relations with other countries. Isolating ourselves threatens our own interests.