Relations with Pakistan

  • Last updated: 03 Mar. 2016 11:33

Over recent years, NATO has developed relations with a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. Pakistan is counted among these countries, which are referred to as “partners across the globe.” NATO’s relations with the country have developed progressively since the Alliance assisted Pakistan following the devastating earthquake in 2005. Political dialogue and practical cooperation have since expanded significantly, in particular on Afghanistan. Allied nations and Pakistan share a common interest in stability in the region and in defeating extremism.

Arrival and bilateral: Left to right: Yousuf Raza Gilani (Prime Minister of Pakistan) shaking hands with NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani and then NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (June 2010).

With NATO leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Afghanistan is an important focus of cooperation (see below), especially regarding the shared objective of bringing security and stability to the country. Several high-level political talks between NATO and Pakistan have also addressed other areas of concern, including narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees. Allied leaders at the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago reaffirmed that “countries in the region, particularly Pakistan, have important roles in ensuring enduring peace, stability and security in Afghanistan and in facilitating the completion of the transition process.”

NATO-Pakistan relations go beyond the Alliance’s mission in Afghanistan. NATO and Pakistan have developed regular exchanges at various levels, including visits by senior officials and leaders in civil society. High-level political exchanges have taken place, including visits by the former and current NATO Secretary General. President Asif Ali Zardari has previously visited NATO Headquarters to address the North Atlantic Council on his vision for cooperation. Military consultations also take place, and NATO has opened selected training and education courses to Pakistani officers.

Secretary General Rasmussen visited Islamabad in July 2010, when it was agreed to develop a Joint Political Declaration. However, developments in the country and the 26 November 2011 incident along the Afghan-Pakistani border hampered progress. President Zardari’s participation in the ISAF meeting at the Chicago Summit on 21 May 2012 highlighted efforts on both sides to restore a full-fledged relationship.

Past interactions have provided opportunities to support the democratically elected authorities, cooperate with the military, build trust and understanding, and promote a culture of cooperative security focused on areas of common interest, such as regional stability and the fight against terrorism. NATO also aims to multiply  interactions with parliamentarians, opinion leaders and the civil society at large to encourage dialogue on NATO’s policies.

The Allies’ adoption of a more efficient and flexible partnership policy in April 2011 paved the way to enhance practical cooperation and political dialogue with “partners across the globe” in the same fashion as with other partners. This means that Pakistan, like other partners, will have access to NATO’s Partnership Cooperation Menu (PCM) should the country wish to develop a formal bilateral programme of cooperation with NATO.

  • Cooperation on Afghanistan

    Instability, extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan pose a threat to both Pakistan and the wider international community. As Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz put it during a visit to NATO on 30 January 2007, “Pakistan is committed to a strong, stable Afghanistan. The one country that will benefit the most, after Afghanistan itself, will be Pakistan.” Although Pakistan has expressed reservations with some operational issues, dialogue on Afghanistan is continuing with the Alliance.

    Pakistan’s support for the efforts of NATO and the international community in Afghanistan remains crucial to the success of the Alliance’s mission.  In early July 2012, NATO’s Secretary General welcomed Pakistan's announcement that the ground supply lines to Afghanistan – which had been closed since November 2011 – were re-opening, allowing for the resumption of the transit of ISAF supplies through Pakistan.

    The work of the Tripartite Commission, a joint forum on military and security issues that brings together representatives from the NATO-led ISAF operation, Afghanistan and Pakistan, reflects the importance of NATO-Pakistan military-to-military cooperation in the context of Afghanistan. The Tripartite Commission meets regularly at various levels to exchange views and discuss security matters of mutual concern. It focuses on four main areas of cooperation: intelligence sharing, border security, countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and initiatives relating to information operations. The Joint Intelligence Operations Centre (JIOC), a joint initiative designed to improve intelligence coordination between Afghanistan, ISAF and Pakistan, opened in Kabul in January 2007.

  • Evolution of relations

    After a devastating earthquake struck Pakistan in October 2005, NATO launched an airlift of urgently needed supplies and deployed engineers, medical units and specialist equipment to the country. In order to facilitate the relief effort, NATO established a massive air-bridge, in addition to utilizing the assets of the NATO Response Force (NRF).

    Following the end of the mission in February 2006, political dialogue between NATO and Pakistan intensified. Practical cooperation has gradually enhanced the relationship, starting with the opening of NATO training courses to Pakistani officers. Since 2009, NATO has developed a Tailored Cooperative Package (TCP) of Activities, listing a series of education and training opportunities open to Pakistani officers and representatives. Contacts between the Pakistani senior military leadership and NATO’s authorities were also intensified in this context. In addition, NATO recently organised multiple activities aimed at making its role clearer to the Pakistani public, including visits of parliamentarians, opinion leaders and journalists.

    Pakistan and NATO’s relationship continued to develop during devastating floods along the Indus River in July 2010. Responding to a request from Pakistan for help, NATO member nations, partner countries and other non-governmental organizations donated several hundred tonnes of humanitarian aid in the form of generators, food, boats, tents, clothing, medical equipment and supplies, field hospitals, blankets, mosquito nets and water purification systems. Coordinated by NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC), the Alliance provided airlift and sealift assistance, starting in August 2010, for the delivery of the donated goods.

    At their meeting in Berlin in April 2011, Allied Foreign Ministers listed Pakistan as one of NATO’s partners across the globe. As such, in the framework of the establishment of a single Partnership Cooperation Menu (PCM) open to all NATO partners, Pakistan will be able to access a wide range of cooperation activities with the Alliance and develop a more effective individual programme.

    2005 (March) Visit to Pakistan by Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General.
      (October) Start of Pakistan earthquake relief operation; NATO airlifts supplies via two air bridges, from Germany and Turkey.
      (December) General Ahsan Saleem Hyat, Vice Chief of Pakistani Army Staff, visits NATO teams at Arja, Pakistan.
    2006 (January) End of NATO’s earthquake relief operation in Pakistan. Almost 3500 tons of relief supplies, over 7600 people moved, more than 8000 patients treated. In addition, roads cleared, schools and shelters built.
      (May) Alliance officials visit Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and other officials in Islamabad.
      (September) First Pakistani military officers and civilians attend courses at NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany.
      (November) First visit by top Pakistani officer, General Ehsan ul Haq, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to NATO Headquarters.
    2007 (January) Opening of Joint Intelligence Operations Centre (JIOC) at ISAF HQ.  The JIOC facilitates joint intelligence operations between ISAF and the Pakistani and Afghan armies.
      (January) Visit to NATO by Prime Minister of Pakistan; NATO and Pakistan agree on Afghanistan approach.
      (February) Visit of high-level Pakistani civil and military officials, as well as representatives of the think-tank community, to NATO HQ and commands.
      (May) First visit by a NATO Secretary General to Pakistan. NATO and Pakistan agree to hold regular high-level political exchanges.
    2008 (January) NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met President Pervez Musharraf in Brussels to discuss current security situation in the region and cooperation between NATO and Pakistan.
      (January) A visit by the Senate’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence was organised to NATO HQ and SHAPE. Pakistani parliamentarians have also been invited by the NPA to its plenary meetings including in Berlin and Valencia
      (November) Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani meets NATO Secretary General at NATO Headquarters.
    2009 (January) NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visits Pakistan for meetings with President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Foreign Minister Qureshi, Defence Minister Mukhtar and General Kayani, Chief of the General Staff, as well as other senior officials.
      (January) The North Atlantic Council agree on the role of the Embassy of Turkey in Islamabad as the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Pakistan. This crucial step complements the practical cooperation framework to facilitate political exchange and working-level coordination.
      (May) Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Kayani visits NATO Headquarters for meetings with NATO's civilian and military leadership.
      (June) President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari visits NATO Headquarters for a meeting with the North Atlantic Council – the first elected President of Pakistan to address the Council.
      (August) A group of Pakistani opinion leaders visits NATO Headquarters and SHAPE.
      (October) A seminar on Pakistan is held, at which international experts on the country engage in discussion with NATO Ambassadors.
      (December) NATO and Pakistan establish an annual work programme or Individual Tailored Cooperation Package (TCP) of activities which provides the basis for practical cooperation.
    2010 (February) Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, meets the Secretary General and addresses the North Atlantic Council.
      (June) Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, accompanied by a large government and parliamentary delegation, meet the Secretary General and address the North Atlantic Council.
    (July) First visit by NATO Secretary General Rasmussen to Islamabad, during which an agreement is reached with the Government of Pakistan to jointly develop a political declaration as a framework for partnership.
      (August) Following Pakistan’s request for help, NATO begins providing airlift and sealift assistance for the transport of humanitarian aid donated after the country’s devastating floods. More than 700 tons of humanitarian items have been delivered on some 19 flights to assist the Pakistani population
    2011 (September) EADRCC is activated at Pakistan’s request in response to monsoon floods.

    (November) Pakistan closes ground communication lines for ISAF transit following an incident along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

    2012 (May) President Zardari participates in the extended format ISAF meeting at NATO’s Chicago Summit.
      (July) Pakistan announces the re-opening of ground supply lines to Afghanistan for the transit of ISAF supplies.