Patching up ties could be difficult because Pakistanis are still seething that the U.S. didn’t tell them in advance about the May 2 raid near Islamabad, and U.S. Congressmen are threatening to cut off billions of dollars amid suspicions that elements of Pakistan’s security forces may have harboured him.
For the second time this week, Pakistan and the U.S. got together in Islamabad to mend the bilateral relationship that has been under great strain since the May 2 unilateral operation in Abbottabad.
After U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, it was the turn of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell to continue with the effort to mend fences.
Mr. Grossman met President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. As for Mr. Morell's visit, there was no official information available though a meeting with ISI Director-General Shuja Pasha is understood to have been on his schedule. The frayed relations between the two intelligence agencies have taken a further beating after the Abbottabad operation.
According to the President's Office, the discussion was a follow-up to Monday's meeting with Mr. Kerry when the two sides decided to put the derailed bilateral relations back on track. A press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations about the meeting between General Kayani and Mr. Grossman said the two discussed the future of bilateral engagement with specific reference to the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Ahead of Mr. Grossman's arrival in Islamabad, the U.S. State Department said he would reaffirm Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's February 18 speech to the Asia Society during his visit, not only to the Pakistani capital but also to the other five countries in Central Asia he is visiting in this round.
In that speech, Ms. Clinton had sought to allay fears of the U.S. abandoning the region like it did in 1989 after the erstwhile Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan. More important for Pakistan, she acknowledged Islamabad's role in the Afghan reconciliation process. “For reconciliation to succeed, Pakistan will have to be part of the process,” she had said, the reiteration of which at this juncture will be a relief for Islamabad. In the wake of the Abbottabad operation, apprehensions were expressed about Pakistan being sidelined in the process.
Though the two sides did not disclose much about what transpired in the deliberations, a clear indication of the trajectory of bilateral relations will be evident if Ms. Clinton decides to visit Islamabad for the strategic dialogue that was earlier scheduled for this month-end. In her telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani earlier this week, she is understood to have indicated that her visit would be linked to the progress made in this round of engagement between the two countries.