Responding to overtures: Pakistan admits allowing Nato supplies by Air

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad publicly admitted Tuesday that it had allowed NATO to use Pakistani airspace to fly supplies into Afghanistan, despite a more than two-month blockade on the border crossings.

Days after the interior minister attempted to avoid the question, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told journalists that the country has allowed Nato to use its airspace for ferrying supplies to troops stationed in Afghanistan.

“We have allowed them to transport food items by air to Afghanistan, since they were perishable,” the minister said. “However, we have also told them not to bring more food supplies,” Mukhtar added.

Last week, US Ambassador Cameron Munter revealed that Western forces stationed in Afghanistan were using Pakistan’s airspace for crucial supplies.

The US, meanwhile, wants Pakistan to lift the Nato supply route embargo since the financial cost of supplies through alternative means is much higher.

While they did not say much on record, sources say Russia and China endorsed Pakistan’s decision to shut down Nato supply routes behind closed doors.

The issue of resumption of Nato supplies was one of the key topics that came under discussion during Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s recent visit to Moscow, say diplomatic sources.

The Russian government not only endorsed Pakistan’s decision to shut down Nato supplies, it also encouraged Islamabad to maintain the ban, sources added.

The supply lines have been suspended since November 26 last year when Nato air strikes at a Pakistani border posts killed 24 soldiers.

Beijing, meanwhile, also asked Islamabad to not bow to US pressure and reopen Nato supply routes keeping in mind its national interest.

“China has extended full support to us … they want us not to be scared of consequences or any threats from the US,” said a government official familiar with the development.

Beijing had assured Islamabad it would provide assistance to help offset the negative fallout of keeping the Nato supply routes blocked, the official, who requested anonymity, added. The Foreign Office spokesperson wasn’t available for comment.

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