Washington: The Obama Administration should remain firm on its counter-terrorism demands of Pakistan, an eminent American expert on South Asia has said, as the US and Pakistani officials continue to negotiate on issues related to the reopening of the NATO supply route to Afghanistan.
"While both sides have an interest in backing away from the brink, the US should remain firm on its counterterrorism demands of Pakistan. Use of northern supply routes over the last six months demonstrates that Pakistan has less leverage than previously assumed," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.
"Unless Islamabad shows greater willingness to join US and NATO efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and cracks down on the terrorist network that has facilitated al Qaeda over the past decade, the relationship will continue on its downward course," Curtis wrote in her opinion after the just concluded NATO Summit in Chicago, which among others was attended by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistan, she said, missed a valuable opportunity to create goodwill with the US and other NATO members when it failed to announce a reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan at the two-day summit.
Not only has Pakistan`s closure of supply routes over the last six months made the war effort more expensive for NATO members, but its failure to crack down on Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries on its soil has prolonged the war and undermined the overall NATO mission in Afghanistan, she wrote.
"Unless Pakistan demonstrates that it was willing to make greater efforts to help bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, US and NATO should shift their diplomatic focus to working more closely with other countries in the region, including Central Asian states and India," she said.
Referring to the ongoing negotiations between the two countries on reopening of the supply routes, Curtis said Pakistan seems to have overplayed its hand in the negotiations by demanding a 30-fold increase in transit costs - a proposal at which US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta balked and referred to as "price gouging" by the Pakistanis.
"While reopening the NATO routes could help reduce costs for shipping supplies to and from Afghanistan, the US has demonstrated that it was capable of developing alternatives routes," she said.
"Pakistani officials have long believed that their ability to provide land access to Afghanistan gave them a strong source of leverage in their relations with the US. But now that this trump card has been played, and it didn`t result in the unmitigated disaster everyone expected, the US has come out in a stronger position to make demands on Pakistan, including taking decisive action against the Taliban and other terrorist groups within its borders," she wrote.