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.

    Milestones
    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.
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