At the Nato summit, which begins in Bucharest on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to offer an alternative route for supplying US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.Full story on DAWN - Top Stories; April 02, 2008
The proposal, if accepted, will change the course of the war in Afghanistan and will also have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan as Nato’s 43,000 troops in Afghanistan rely heavily on supplies transported via Pakistan.
Diplomatic sources in Washington told Dawn that Russian and Nato diplomats have already held a series of “productive and successful” talks on a plan that would allow non-military material – such as clothing, food and petrol – to cross Russia by land.
The plan, however, could later be expanded to include ammunition and light weapons as well, the sources said.
While America’s European allies have shown great interest in the proposal, the Americans are still reluctant as they do not want to bring Russia back to a region from where it was forcibly ousted in 1989, after battling Afghan freedom fighters (now Al Qaeda and Taliban militants) for almost 10 years.
Despite Washington’s reluctance, the Nato has held intensive talks with Russian officials on the precise routes to be used and hopes to reach agreement at this week’s summit in Bucharest.
Western diplomatic sources in Washington told Dawn that Nato sees the proposed route as a good alternative for supplies going through Pakistan which faces political uncertainty and may not be a reliable route for long.
But there are others in Washington who warn that an attempt to disassociate Pakistan from any plan for Afghanistan may have dangerous consequences.
In an article published on the eve of the Nato summit, Karl F. Inderfurth, a former US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, describes Pakistan as “one country that can make or break (Nato’s) mission” in Afghanistan.
He notes that Nato’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has promised to visit Islamabad as soon as the new Pakistan government is in place.
“After Bucharest there is no better destination to reinforce Nato’s Afghan mission,” says Mr Inderfurth while backing the proposed visit.
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