In a bid to salvage a relationship plagued with mutual distrust, the U.S. and Pakistan on Monday decided to work together in any future action against high value targets in Pakistan. Recognising the need to press the "reset button" in bilateral relations, the two countries also decided to revisit all tracks of engagement.
This was decided after a lengthy meeting between U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and the Pakistani civil and military leadership here. In a joint statement issued by the Pakistan Government, Mr. Kerry was quoted as stating that the U.S. has no designs on Pakistan’s nuclear and strategic assets. He was prepared to personally affirm such a guarantee and a press release put out by the Prime Minister’s Office claimed that the Senator was willing to give the undertaking in his own blood.
According to Mr. Kerry, the U.S. decision to keep Pakistan in the dark about the Abbottabad operation was not out of distrust but for operational security; adding that very few in the American Government knew about it.
While Pakistan drew attention to how it had already begun to bear the brunt of the operation in the form of revenge terror strikes, both sides accepted the need to recognize and respect each other’s national interests, particularly in countering terrorism and working together for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.
The Senator conveyed concerns in the U.S. about Islamabad’s commitment to fight terrorism and drew attention to tough questions being raised in the Congress about continuing with the economic assistance package to Pakistan. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan was committed to fighting terror but underlined the "imperative of mutual trust, mutual interest and respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty to strengthen national consensus in the war against terror".
Mr. Gilani also articulated Pakistan’s desire for recognition and international support – particularly from the U.S. – in this hour of trial instead of negative messaging and uncalled for criticism. Speaking against unilateral action, he stressed the need for evolving a joint strategy which would allow Pakistan take ownership of the campaign.
Soon after landing in Islamabad from Kabul on Sunday night, Mr. Kerry met Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi where the "intense feelings" of the rank and file of the Pakistan Army over the Abbottabad incident was conveyed to him.
Pakistan-U.S. relations – which have been skating thin ice since the beginning of this year hit particularly choppy seas since the May 2 operation in Abbottabad to get al-Qaeda leader bin Laden. Smarting at being left out in the cold after having provided initial leads to bin Laden’s possible presence in the area, Pakistan’s security establishment – particularly the Inter Services Intelligence – has been reported as calling the U.S. action as a "stab in the back".