Pakistan and the US appear to have pulled back from the brink after behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts made “substantive progress” towards the normalisation of ties. A US diplomat went as far as to say that “the worst is over.”
The diplomat, speaking to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity, said the two countries had gone the extra mile this week to defuse tension. He would not share further details but did say the two countries agreed unequivocally on one central point: that a breakdown in their relationship “is not an option.”
The progress was apparently made during US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s talks with Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and President Asif Zardari. However, it is unclear if the two countries have been able to overcome their differences on the Haqqani network, which has become the core irritant in the relationship.
Another US official said a lot will depend on the outcome of the All Parties Conference, convened by the prime minister to discuss the ongoing row between the two countries.
A Pakistani official also confirmed that the US and Pakistan were eager to put recent tensions behind them. “The two sides have realised that they have to maintain this relationship and at the same time agreed that the war of words must be ceased,” the official added.
In a positive sign, two US officials are expected to travel to Islamabad in October. US special representative for the region Marc Grossman, who in an interview on Wednesday with Express News struck a reconciliatory note, is due to visit the capital next week.
The incoming US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey, who assumes charge today (Friday), will also visit Pakistan in an attempt to repair ties with the Pakistani military leadership.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2011.