Pakistan’s officials, and its people, reeling under the volley of harsh words that have come their way from Washington of late — with Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and others all using increasingly strong language — will be relieved to hear slightly less aggressive language at last. Speaking in Washington during a discussion on 2013 budget priorities, senior Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested that Pakistan and the US needed to work together and maintain a harmonious working relationship. That relationship has seemed closer to cracking than ever before. The senator suggested that an apology from the US over the November 2011 Salala incident could go a long way to mend ties between the two countries.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman has welcomed Feinstein’s words. After all the diatribes and harsh attacks coming the country’s way, Feinstein’s words are enough to strike cheer in any heart. What is also clear is that Pakistan and the US both need each other. For all the tough talk of bombing Fata or staging ‘strategic attacks’, Washington cannot gain victory over the militants without Pakistan’s help. This is a reality, which holds all the more true now that there is talk of negotiations with certain Taliban factions. It is clear that Islamabad’s role will be required in this. It is also true that Pakistan — much as it would like to — cannot quite break free of the US right now, for reasons that include economic factors. A simple apology, a few words either written or spoken, over what happened at Salala should not be so difficult after all. Senator Feinstein has spoken with reason and rationality. Her words make good sense and come from experience. We must now hope that they have an impact and pride can be put aside for the sake of saving what is a strategically crucial relationship.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.
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