Obama is refusing to see Zardari, possibly because he arrived in Chicago without a deal in his pocket on reopening the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to US transport. A White House spokesman said no bilateral meeting between Obama and Zardari at the Nato summit was scheduled.
Instead Pakistan is making a series of demands in return for reopening the supply routes, including a review of the US policy of drone attacks against targets inside Pakistan and a public apology for the killing of its troops.
Zardari was invited late to the two-day Nato summit, which will be dominated on Monday by discussion of the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan by 2014 and the retention of a modest armed presence in the county for a decade after that.
The Obama administration had high hopes that Zardari would arrive in Chicago prepared to announce the opening of supply routes essential to Nato. Zardari, in talks with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, made a series of demands, offering to reopen the supply routes only if the US was prepared to pay a higher charge for each vehicle using it, doubling the tariff from $250 to $500 per vehicle. Zardari also demanded a public apology for the killings.
The fact that Zardari had to settle for a meeting with Clinton rather than the president is in itself a snub.
General John Allen, the US commander in Afghanistan, told reporters at a briefing: "There have been some very positive indications of late with the government in Islamabad about an interest in entering into negotiations, which I think you're all aware of, to open the ground line of communications. I can't tell you when that will occur – obviously sooner is better than later."
A Pakistan presidential spokesman said Zardari told Clinton he wanted "to find a permanent solution to the drone issue as it not only violated our sovereignty but also inflamed public sentiments due to innocent civilian casualties". The US is using drone attacks on suspected al-Qaida and Taliban members.
The Obama administration is angry over the demand for increased payments given the level of aid America is already giving to Pakistan. US officials frequently portray Pakistan as pivotal to a peaceful resolution of the Afghanistan conflict.
Various possibilities here. It might have been the usual Pakistani perfidy to promise something just to be able to attend the NATO meet. Or, Zardari might be playing to the gallery to project himself as the mard-ul-momin standing up to the US tyranny. He needs to do something drastic to get votes. Or, the PA really threatened him that he present the demands exactly as they dictated ( a similar scenario was played out at Shimla in 1972 when the defeated and humbled PA made demands worthy of a conquering army).