ISLAMABAD  - Pakistan Army chief and Isaf commander in Afghanistan Thursday had a meeting, which they said helped in improving understanding between Pakistan Army and the US-led military alliance, noting ‘significant progress’ in their operational relationship.The meeting in Rawalpindi, which came days after the two sides struck a deal ending a seven-month blockade of Nato supply routes, is a further sign of efforts to repair the fractious anti-terror alliance that plunged to its worst crisis after US air strikes last November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani however told Gen John Allen – the American chief of Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan – that “the Pakistan-US relationship should be based on mutual trust, respect and transparency”.Kayani said his meeting with Allen, the first since Pakistan and the US signed an MoU on transporting Nato supplies to Afghanistan, has “helped towards improving strategic and operational understanding between the Pakistan military and Isaf“.Allen also said “significant progress” was being made in improving cooperation with Pakistan, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting. “I look forward to these visits and am pleased with the upward spiral in our relationship they represent. We are making significant progress toward building a partnership that is enduring, strategic, carefully defined and that enhances the security and prosperity of the region,” Allen said.Besides the Salala chekpost attack, the US alliance with Pakistan also suffered a major blow when American troops in a clandestine operation killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year. However, Islamabad on July 3 lifted the longest blockade on Nato traffic during the war in Afghanistan after Washington said sorry for the deaths of the Pakistani troops at Salala.Both sides, after months of hectic talks, signed a formal deal Tuesday governing NATO supplies until the end of 2015, well beyond the scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of NATO troops in 2014. ISI chief Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam is also currently in the United States, the first visit by a head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency to Washington in a year.The Pakistani military had earlier said that the meeting between Kayani and Allen would focus on border coordination matters and reviewing progress made in implementing issues discussed during the last tripartite meeting between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Isaf.The joint statement said Thursday’s meeting was “another in a series of opportunities for the commanders to continue building upon the growing operational cooperation between the Afghan National Security Forces, the Pakistan military and Isaf“.The three parties have “many shared interests including their respective commitments to expanding opportunities for coordinated action against terrorists on both sides of the border who threaten Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region”.The joint statement said the three parties were also committed to “supporting Afghanistan’s security, stability, and efforts towards reconciliation. They also share a responsibility for protecting the brave Afghan and Pakistani soldiers working in the border region”.“The future security and stability of the region rests in large part on the strength of partnership these discussions are forging. The talks also recognised the importance of future opportunities for key ANSF, Pakistani military and Isaf senior leaders to meet, explore means to expand the partnership, and continue this vital work.”The statement however made no mention of the specific problems and difficulties that have increasingly characterised relations between Afghan, Pakistani and Nato troops. US officials have called repeatedly on Pakistan to move against the Haqqani network, an Afghan militant faction linked to al-Qaeda and loyal to the Afghan Taliban whose leaders, the US alleges, are based on Pakistan’s side of the border.Afghanistan and Pakistan are also locked in public acrimony over attacks carried out across the porous and often unmarked border. Pakistan says Pakistani Taliban loyal to Maulana Fazlullah are using havens in Afghanistan to resume attacks in north-western Pakistan three years after he escaped an offensive in the Swat valley. Afghanistan has complained about cross-border artillery shells and rockets being fired from Pakistan into Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 03-Aug-2012 here.