Lahore, Pakistan In an overture to Washington, Pakistan’s prime minister said Monday his country wants to repair U.S. relations pushed close to rupture since NATO airstrikes on the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani troops last month.
Yousuf Raza Gilani’s interview with The Associated Press was the strongest indication yet that Islamabad realizes Pakistan needs an alliance with Washington even as it continues retaliating for the Nov. 26 raid by blocking NATO and U.S. supplies from traveling over its soil into landlocked Afghanistan.
The interview came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama called Pakistan’s president to tell him that the airstrikes were not deliberate targeting of Pakistani soldiers and that the U.S. was committed to a full investigation. The White House said Obama and President Asif Ali Zardari reaffirmed their countries’ relationship, which it described as “critical to the security of both nations,” and agreed to keep in close touch.
Gilani didn’t offer the U.S. anything other than Pakistan’s willingness to consider starting over, apparently believing the attack had given Islamabad fresh leverage to dictate terms in what has been an uneasy and largely transactional relationship since Pakistan joined the U.S. war against violent Islamist extremism after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Gilani said new ties being negotiated with the U.S. would ensure that the two countries “respected each other’s red lines” regarding sovereignty and rules of engagement along the border.
“We really want to have good relations with the U.S. based on mutual respect and clearly defined parameters,” he said in the interview at his residence in the eastern city of Lahore, at one point having to put up with a mischievous grandchild using a watch to reflect sunlight onto his face.
“I think that is doable. I think that it won’t take long. We are not anti-American, we are part of the system, we have to work with the entire international community.”