Engagement is answer

THE crucial meeting between National Security Advisor Lt General Nasser Janjua (Retd) and American Ambassador David Hale in Islamabad on Thursday confirmed that the answer to the prevailing tension in relations between Pakistan and United States lies in engagement and talks. While the NSA put across Pakistan’s concerns and point of view in a candid manner, the US Ambassador tried to pacify inflamed sentiments in the country through positive interpretation of the remarks made by the American President regarding Pakistan’s role in the war against terror.
No doubt, the United States took considerable time in finalizing and fine-tuning its Afghanistan and South Asia strategy, which means that there was little scope for any major departure from what Washington intends to pursue. However, it is also a fact that so far no details are available as to how the United States wants to realize the objectives enumerated in the new policy. Pakistan and the United States are long-standing allies and they know each other’s strength and weaknesses in areas of engagement, therefore, none of them would like to press the other too far to make things worse. The interpretation of the David Hale that the US President did not blame Pakistan for failure in Afghanistan is one of the most positive elements of the discussions between the NSA and the Ambassador, as Pakistan believes that its role, contribution, achievements and sacrifices in the war against terrorism are not being appreciated in the right perspective and that the burden of the failures of the coalition forces inside Afghanistan is being shifted on Pakistan, which amounts to scapegoating. Similarly, he also pointed out that it would be wrong to assume that the policy is aimed at only military solution in Afghanistan, adding that the strategy espouses a political solution as well. If concerns of Pakistan on this account are taken care of then one can expect some positive movement towards peaceful resolution of the longstanding conflict in Afghanistan. Again, it was also a good thing to hear from the Ambassador that the additional troops for Afghanistan would have the role of trainer for Afghan forces and that action would be taken against all terrorist organizations including TTP that is using Afghan territory for terrorist activities in Pakistan. The point justifiably raised by NSA that Pakistan’s nuclear programme is wrongly linked with terrorism also needs to be responded to by the other side as this creates a lot of resentment among people of Pakistan, who, rightly or wrongly, are convinced that the ultimate objective of the United States was to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear capability and assets. Hopefully, instead of resort to rhetoric, all sticking points would be thoroughly discussed and mutually acceptable way forward agreed upon.

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