Pakistani president to attend NATO summit

Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari announced he will attend the upcoming two-day NATO Chicago summit, a move signalling a possible end to the country’s six-month blockade of supplies route for coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan closed the route in November 2011 in retaliation to a US airstrike on two Afghan border posts that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, a move that strained the already tense relations between the countries amid US drone strike on Osama Bin Laden earlier that year.

The United States and Pakistan are yet to agree on details of the reopening as the two sides remain at odds over how much NATO should pay for goods shipped through the country and how much military aid is owed, with Islamabad claiming more than $3 billion for past operations and Washington putting the figure at around $1.3 billion.

Analysts say Pakistan has no choice but to reopen the border to boost the state budget as the country is in the grip of a serious energy crisis that is affecting all sectors of the economy, with the government seeking re-election due in 2013.

NATO shipped around 30 percent of its nonlethal supplies through Pakistan prior to the blockade. Since then, supplies have taken a more expensive route through Eastern Europe and Asia.

NATO leaders meet in Chicago on May 20-21. The outcome of the summit will be discussed at the SDA’s upcoming ‘After Chicago: Re-evaluating NATO's priorities’ conference.

Picture credits:
© CC- BY-SA-2.5,2.0,1.0; 2009-05-06 Michael Gross and US State Department
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