The much anticipated talks between the US and Pakistan have gotten off to a great start, and appear to be ushering in a new era of respect and cooperation between the two powers. There has been a new attitude on the part of the Americans, one of greater respect and partnership, that promises mutual cooperation. Obviously, there are some issues that will need to be discussed and worked out between the two powers. But even in the closest family there are times when brothers will disagree. It is encouraging, though, when brothers sit down and find some common ground based on respect for each other.
This new attitude of respect for Pakistan is clearly seen in the American media, where Pakistan is discussed as an important and valued partner not only in the ongoing fight against militants, but in the world community. The Voice of America news service reported that the talks were a success from the beginning:
Qureshi told reporters that the first day of talks yielded a U.S. agreement to “fast track” delivery of key military supplies to Pakistan. He said he is happy that U.S.-Pakistani ties are progressing from a relationship to a partnership.
Clinton said the United States stands with Pakistanis as they rebuild communities and “rid their country of those who seek to destroy it.”
She also said advancing the security of Pakistanis means more than military aid. She said the country’s chronic problems, such as joblessness and energy shortages, need to be addressed. She mentioned Washington’s $7.5 billion civilian aid program as evidence of that commitment.
Back home, PM Gilani has said that he will bring the nation into confidence on the specifics of the talks once they have concluded, but said that the dialogue has been positive for all parties.
He said he would inform the public about the decisions made in the ongoing talks.
Talking to reporters, the Prime Minister termed the talks successful and said deliberations between the Pak-US working groups were ongoing.
Prime Minister Gilani said during the dialogue, Pakistan would particularly focus on the country’s energy crisis and seek assistance on meeting its growing power requirements.
This new attitude of respect and cooperation by the Americans has not been lost in our own media, either. Journalist Syed Tala Hussain makes note of how close the two nations have grown in respect for each other, and how it has changed the global dynamic.
As the details of the strategic dialogue in Washington show, Pakistan is negotiating from a position much better than before. Praise is rather frequent for its performance in FATA and Swat against terrorists. The sizzling rhetoric against the Quetta Shura has also gone down. Commentators wired to official circles are speaking of a “paradigm shift” in Pakistan’s policy towards the Afghan Taliban.
The Indians are a better gauge of Pakistan’s changed situation. At the beginning of this year, they were drawing vicarious pleasure out of Islamabad’s diplomatic travails. Now they are stunned and sullen. “Washington and London are both mollycoddling Islamabad at the expense of Delhi” was the screaming lament that rang throughout a two-day long seminar in London, where senior Indian analysts and former diplomats exchanged views with their Pakistani and British counterparts.
Even The News has seen a positive opportunity in the dialogue.
As Dawn correctly notes today, this is not actually new, but a return to a previous order. Pakistan and the US have long been like brothers, always close, but not always on good terms. But we have come to a new era in which the leaders of both nations realize that we have more interests in common than in difference, and that a new era of cooperation and respect is in everyone’s interest.
The Americans lined up their ‘stars’, while stressing their desire to see the relationship “go far beyond security”. Pakistan, too, reiterated that it sought “stable, long-term relations based on mutual respect, mutual interest and shared values”. In fact, our foreign minister went on record saying that Pakistan had already done a lot and that it was now America’s turn to start delivering.
What accounts for Pakistan’s confidence? For one, the credibility that arises from a democratic dispensation, however inefficient and ineffective, has been reinforced by the remarkable success of our military operations. This has been a revelation to the Americans. Both Adm Mullen and Gen Petraeus have acknowledged that the Pakistan Army’s resolve and determination have dispelled much of the mistrust.
More recently, the arrest of several major Taliban leaders in Pakistan led US special envoy Richard Holbrooke to see “a positive shift”.
What may also have encouraged the Pakistanis was Gen Petraeus’s recent remark that Pakistan’s “security forces have put a lot of short sticks into a lot of hornets’ nests in the last 10 months” and more significantly, that Pakistan “has an interest that is somewhat different than ours and that is their strategic depth and always has been for a country that is very narrow and has its historic enemy to its east”.
He also brushed aside talk of differences between them by pointing out that “this is not unique just to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but throughout the world. We have interests, they have interests. What we want to do is to … understand where they are divergent and try to make progress together”.
These talks could very well have gone badly as much as they could have gone well. The fact that there has been so much success already clearly points to a new era in mutual respect and cooperation between the two powers, America and Pakistan. It is encouraging to watch this, and we pray that continued progress comes from these talks.