Pakistan to America: What have you done for us lately?

ajtr

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Three iconic visits to the US

Monday, March 29, 2010
S Khalid Husain

Barring the Quaid-e-Azam, almost every president and prime minister of Pakistan has winged his or her way to the US after assuming office. For most, an official visit to the US has been as much a compulsion as performing umrah at government expense, with a large entourage of freeloaders.

However, of the countless visits, only two, that of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1950 and of President Ayub Khan in 1961, stand out as state visits where the host, the US president, appeared honoured to greet the Pakistani visitors. In those days the prime purpose of Pakistani leaders’ foreign visits, particularly to the US, was to further the country’s interests and not, as has become the custom in recent years, one’s own interests, or the party’s.

During Liaquat’s visit, the first by a top Pakistani leader to the US, a new US-Pakistan relationship was constructed, which was a manifest need of that time. It was, in essence, a relationship of “reliance” on the US for defence.

If the country had progressed as a democratic entity, and not regressed as a personal fiefdom of its feudal leaders and military dictators, or of civilian leaders reared by military dictators, the relationship would have evolved into one less of reliance and more of shared principles and interests. This was not to be, and Pakistan today is more dependent than ever on the US and on other foreign donors for everything – defence, money, food, day-to-day sustenance.

Liaquat Ali Khan made sure the defence-oriented relationship with the US did not betray the country’s honour. Pakistan continued to back the just Muslim causes in North Africa and Palestine so forcefully its advocacy of these became the dread of French, US and Israeli diplomats in the UN and other international forums. The admiration of the Arab world was shown by many new-borns in North Africa and the Middle East being named Zafarullah, after Pakistan’s foreign minister.

The succession of incompetent civilian and military rulers who followed Liaquat Ali Khan, many with serious character flaws, not only failed to lead Pakistan out of its dependence on the US, but made the relationship so compliant that it is today devoid of all respect for this country.

During the incumbent president’s US visit in May 2009 nothing was said on Kashmir, the water dispute with India or any other issue important to Pakistan. Seeking US support for the self, for “my” democracy, “my” government, and taking the son to official meetings transcended all other issues, and in line with which the agreement was signed under US auspices with President Karzai for talks on transit trade which will in time allow India to use the Wagah-Khyber route to Kabul. This is the same as unhooking Pakistan from its issues with India and hooking it to Indo-Afghan interests.

The second US visit of any consequence by a Pakistani head of state was that of President Ayub Khan. Forgetting for a while that Ayub Khan was the harbinger of martial law in the country and the resultant disasters, his US visit as president was a gain for the country in many ways, including his breakthrough with the Democrats, who traditionally have been more supportive of India. Getting the Democrats to also think of Pakistan’s standpoint and concerns was more than a useful outcome; it was reducing a prejudicial imbalance against Pakistan in the US Congress.

Liaquat Ali Khan was known to favour a policy of nonalignment, but was grappling with a model that would not result in Pakistan being overwhelmed in the “neutrals” camp by India. Pakistan would have accepted the role of a “senior” for India if it had conducted itself as one, but that was never to be, and Pakistan has always had to look for safeguards against the hostile intents of a bigger neighbour.

The country was not then entangled in alliances and pacts, and Liaquat Ali Khan impressively led his hosts to recognise that Pakistan could be a friend, not a contrivance, for US influence in South Asia.

The masterstroke was his visit to India in April 1950, a few weeks before his US trip, where Liaquat signed the famous Liaquat-Nehru Pact. This was widely covered in the US media and he came out looking very much a man of peace. When he arrived in the US, in May 1950, his reputation preceded him. For all purposes, Liaquat stole the show from Gandhian India as a peace-monger.

Liaquat’s visit was an experience for the Americans. President Truman was so taken in by his speeches, and their competent delivery by him, he is said to have wondered if the Pakistani prime minister’s speechwriter and elocution “coach” could be persuaded to stay back.

His was an all-Pakistani show. No foreign speechwriters, no foreign grooming and dress consultants, no foreign elocution instructors, who probably wept as their most recent charges from Pakistan spewed words that must have made parrots blush.

Ayub Khan visited the US in mid-1961, soon after John F Kennedy assumed office. Americans were mesmerised with the charm, glamour and lustre which Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, and the Kennedy clan brought to the US presidency. America was agog because it was like royalty, something Americans always envied their first cousins in England for.

Into this environment arrived Ayub Khan, with his striking personality and commanding presence, and his attractive daughter Nasim Aurangzeb in her captivating Pakistani outfits. Both almost stole the show from Jack and Jacqueline. The Kennedys broke tradition by holding the state dinner for Ayub Khan and his daughter outside the White House, at Mount Vernon. It was the social event of the season, and it is hard to say who carried the evening – the Kennedys or Ayub and his daughter. It almost seemed the guests were more anxious to be photographed with the president of Pakistan and his daughter than with their own president and his wife.

One of the most successful official visits by a Pakistani was by Bashir, the camel-cart driver from Karachi. US vice president Lyndon Johnson, on a visit to Pakistan in May 1961, ran into Bashir when he stopped his motorcade on the street to chat with drivers of a row of passing camel-carts, and said to him in typical Texan drawl: “Yeah, now you come to see me in Texas, y’hear?” The reporters turned the routine Texan expression into an invitation from Johnson for Bashir. There was no getting away for Johnson.

Bashir arrived in the US in October 1961 and was an immediate hit. Johnson received him and apologised for the chill. Bashir’s response, “where there are friends like you there can be no chill, only warmth,” rocked America. From then on, the media hung on to every word Bashir uttered. All of America read and heard Bashir’s comments and loved him, and his country. Time magazine wrote that Bashir’s fluent homilies seem to come from the heart and “flow like the Rubaiyat.”

It is hard to believe Bashir was coached and was repeating what he was told. His comments came spontaneously and were translated by the State Department translator, who said he had a hard time keeping up with Bashir’s fluency. Former president Harry Truman, according to Time, was so taken that he addressed Bashir as “Your Excellency.”

Bashir’s comments touched hearts in America like no speech of a visiting Pakistani honcho ever did. Bashir’s US visit was undoubtedly one of most successful by anyone from Pakistan.

The writer is a former corporate executive. Email: [email protected] net.pk
 

san

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I wonder why the mighty NATO & US forces are not able to defeat Taliban. If we compare Soviet vs NATO& US in Afganistan, then it seems NATO & US are not doing any better. When Soviet troops are in Afganistan, whole world were against them supplying billion of $ weapons & also trainning to Afgan fighters. Now NATO& US have support of the whole world, still not able to win the war against Taliban.
US cannot win the war by having strategic parternship with Pak, even after getting all the advantage compared to Soviet. To win it may have to change the political & geogerphical equation of AF& Pak
 

ajtr

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Ahmed Quraishi comes up his own set of wish list from USA even before next strategic dialogue is announced.

Outsourcing Pakistan?

Monday, March 29, 2010
Ahmed Quraishi

Seeing the official Pakistani wish list fort the Strategic Dialogue you’d think Pakistan’s managers are outsourcing Pakistan to America. If Washington is supposed to solve all of our energy, educational, strategic, military and economic problems, what are we here for? To get commission on aid grants?

The United States came to the Strategic Dialogue with a gun to its head. We are grateful to Washington for giving us a fair hearing. But can we force a change of mindset in Washington just because the US is facing a temporary setback in Afghanistan and needs Pakistan – again – to cut its losses?

The Bush administration caused a lot of damage to Pakistan’s geostrategic environment in the past eight years. Far from receiving any benefit, we saw our ally empowering our enemies. Even now, our ally reluctantly launched a strategic dialogue. The fear is that Pakistan is being taken again for a ride just as George W. Bush did when he dubbed us a Major Non-Nato Ally promising a new day that never came. This is why Pakistan’s military commanders need to be congratulated for driving a hard bargain on Pakistan’s role in any new arrangements in Afghanistan. This snatched some victory from the jaws of what looked like sure defeat.

But our bargain is still not hard enough. For a nation that has suffered more than US $ 35 billion in losses and more than five thousand dead, one fifth of them due to US bombings in our tribal belt and others due to other regional intrigues, our position is still not fully recognized. There is an impression in the air that Washington is somehow doing a favor to Islamabad by holding a strategic dialogue.

We need to strengthen the hands of Pakistan’s friends in Washington and work with them to roll back the damage done to Pakistan’s interests. But for this our political and military leaders need to level with their American counterparts on a number of major issues.

Will the US;

• End its policy of encouraging the expansion in Indian military footprint in the region?

• End its policy of demonizing Pakistan in the media?

• End efforts to create pliant governments in Islamabad cultivate political proxies?

• End efforts to contain Pakistan’s military and intelligence infrastructure?

• End efforts to make Pakistan’s interests subservient to those of India’s in the region?

• End its policy of ignoring Kashmir?

• End its policy of not accepting Pakistan’s nuclear power status?

There is no hint on any one of these issues in the joint statement issued at the end of the talks. This is why the jubilant statements by our prime minister and the foreign minister after the first few rounds of the dialogue were premature. They reinforced the impression that the Pakistani government will be happy with crumbs. There was no mention of a free trade agreement or even a hint on a civil nuclear energy agreement. And yet our government took the exceptional step of moving the courts to reopen cases against Dr. A. Q. Khan, which appears like a lousy attempt at appeasement and is not a good precedent for the future.

Up to one thousand Pakistanis or more have died as collateral damage during CIA’s drone operations in our tribal belt, not to mention of the thousands of affected families of our civilians and soldiers. Pakistani officials should have arranged to introduce some of these families to the US public to sensitize it. The US media has been too anti-Pakistan to let the good ordinary Americans see and understand the Pakistani perspective.

How can we convince anyone of our arguments when clear divisions exist in Islamabad on major issues? A public event sponsored by some of the coalition members in the Pakistani government a few days ago in Peshawar actually called for increasing CIA drone activity inside Pakistan. Pakistani officials are also yet to take a stand on the fact that key leaders of terrorism inside Balochistan continue to enjoy the Afghan safe haven. The United States is yet to take measures to curb this.

Seen in the right perspective, the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue should correct the imbalances of the initial deals that framed the joint cooperation after 9/11. The next rounds of the dialogue should deal with these major flaws in the US-Pakistani alliance instead of creating the impression that we are outsourcing our problems to American bureaucrats.
 

ajtr

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I wonder why the mighty NATO & US forces are not able to defeat Taliban. If we compare Soviet vs NATO& US in Afganistan, then it seems NATO & US are not doing any better. When Soviet troops are in Afganistan, whole world were against them supplying billion of $ weapons & also trainning to Afgan fighters. Now NATO& US have support of the whole world, still not able to win the war against Taliban.
US cannot win the war by having strategic parternship with Pak, even after getting all the advantage compared to Soviet. To win it may have to change the political & geogerphical equation of AF& Pak
Main reason is that USA never wanted to win the Afghan war it was all about preserving pakistan and taliban for future jihad on Pakistan-usa behalf in central asia-china-russia- south asia.Pakistan is the only country which can provide entry to central asia to usa.If one look at map afghanistan is surrounded by pakistan to the west iran to the south and central asia to the north.



Now after 1979 iranian revolution.iran is so much anti -usa.so expecting iran to usa bidding in central asia is like expecting the stars.so only country remains is pakistan.Now the 2 main future enemies/opponents of usa lies in eurasia are china and russia and in order to deal with them usa need foothold in central asia and for that the opening is through pakistan and afghanistan.another reason is vast gas and petroleum reserves of central asia.War on terror was the greatest farce enacted by usa to finish of iraq for it oil .next in line are iran and central asia.taliban being sunni will be proxy fighters of usa against any war with shia iran.
 

Vinod2070

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Its amazing how these anti American people like Ahmed Qurashi too want to beg incessantly for all its worth. The expectations are just too high. The desperation will be just as high when its all over.
 

ajtr

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Yet nothing strategic about it!


While talking to Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, the Chief of Army Staff, General Parvez Kayani, conveyed Pakistan's strategic priorities in unequivocal terms. The general told the senators that if they make sure that Pakistan's economic and energy needs will be met "we are willing to forgo the military equipment that we have asked for."
Certainly, the most important concerns of Pakistan today are the economy and energy. So these concerns were appropriately conveyed to the American administration during the course of strategic dialogue that they are the vital requirements that need to be met. The urgency was amply elaborated when a general in the thick of war opted to forego his lifeline, the vital combat kit, in the favour of his county's economic and energy needs.
Apparently in the conceptual context, Pak-US relations have been put on correct track, at least on a medium- to long-term basis. Presumably, the policy steering group and other structural support committees would be able to reshape the relations and prevent ruptures which have been the signature tune of Pak-US relations. How-ever, in the context of immediate relief to problems of mammoth dimensions, encountering Pakistan, the recently concluded strategic dialogue has further weakened the constituency of the well wishers of robust and durable Pak-US relations.
Unluckily, the rhetoric that preceded the talks had raised the expectations to an unrealistic height; hence the fall is proportionately hurting. A common Pakistani is utterly perplexed, at least in the context of immediate gains. In fact, the talks have not been able to get out of the orbit of mundane routine matters and enter the higher orbit of strategic stature.
Indeed, the word "strategic" is being perceived to have been belittled. It was expected that at least in one or two domains, measures of strategic significance would be announced to demonstrate American solidarity with the suffering people of this terror ravaged country; such measures could have gone a long way to pacify the prevailing anti-America public opinion.
Unfortunately, most of the issues which Pakistan perceives as of strategic importance remained a virtual non-starters, especially the nuclear energy generation capacity enhancement and resolution of Kashmir, and as corollary, the water issue. The injection of $125 million into the power sector is the only breeze of fresh air, which could radiate its effect. However, it is too little too late, as its impact would be inconsequential. It would only re-operatioanlise three dysfunctional thermal power stations having net capacity of around 400 MW, whereas in real terms the electricity shortfall has exceeded the dreadful mark of 5 GW. Rest of the issues have been put on slow track via policy steering group, committees and working groups. Nevertheless, the whole fanfare could not fully grasp the gravity and urgency of the problems being faced by the people of Pakistan as a consequence of power outages, water shortage and economic tightness. Leaving aside the nuclear power issue, prompt and cheap funding of even one mega hydro-electric power project could have generated strategic level goodwill.
Despite the fact that both sides realise that their bilateral relations, as well as associated multilateral interactions, are mutually beneficial, the approach on the American part is being seen by the Pakistani public as lacklustre - devoid of empathy. This has indeed further disarmed the interest groups that were wishing for sustainable relations between the two countries.
Interestingly, it is not the gap of perception which is creating problems. When high-ranking American secretaries, generals and the like testify before congressional committees, their perception of the problems being faced by Pakistan is remarkably accurate. They virtually sound as if they were hired lobbyists for Pakistan. Despite such wonderful clarity on the issues of vital concern to Pakistan, the solutions that emerge are often disappointing. Similar results emerge, yet once again by the hazy conclusions of strategic dialogue, especially with respect to the timeframe. Once again, rhetoric is in and substance is out.
Onus of such an impasse surely rests on American legislative and policymaking processes, as indeed on its statesmanship that readily gets mired in the bureaucratic interpretations of the otherwise clear cut issues.
While American policy peddlers will continue to repeat the rotten script that they made a grave mistake to abandon Pakistan in the eighties, and that such mistake would not be repeated, a common Pakistani feels that at least in material sense, the USA has almost abandoned Pakistan amidst multi-dimensional crises.
It will further reinforce the growing public perception that Pakistan's overly simplistic and symbiotic association with America's GWOT/OCO-related objectives is not compatible with Pakistan's overall national security concerns, and thus is not sustainable. In this context, the difference of perspicacity on some of the vital issues is precariously high. Cost benefit analysis alone by the people radiate the impression that Americans are not ready to chip in even a fraction of the losses borne by Pakistan in some of purposeless and rudderless American military pursuits in our area. Hence, the hardship brought upon the people of Pakistan is not likely to be mitigated in a comforting timeframe.
Moreover, America has once again decided to go along with its role of a text book neutral, and has opted not to influence India with respect to the resolution of vital issues. Despite President Barack Obama's campaign days' promise, Kashmir issue continues to be dormant. At the same time, another related issue of water diversion from rivers flowing into Pakistan through Kashmir has acquired a serious dimension. It was expected that the Obama administration would show similar resilience and perseverance on this issue, as it displayed in the context of health care legislation. Notwithstanding this, hopefully, America will continue with its backchannel diplomacy to bring India on the negotiation table for a purposeful and comprehensive dialogue.
Strategic dialogue provided yet another chance for the Americans to repair the psychological damage done during the notorious episode of the Kerry-Lugar legislation. However, the opportunity has been missed, strengthening the opinion that the Americans want to keep Pakistan's economy on life-saving equipment; and retain the option of arm-twisting, on as required basis.
Unfortunately, the people of Pakistan today stand emotionally more detached from the American point of view than they were before the strategic dialogue. They were looking for immediate relief pertaining issues of urgent concern and discomfort, whereas what they got are long haul promises which they have seen evaporating in American legislative alleys, so many times and on trivial grounds.
Sustained economic revival of our economy is dependent on the US and European market access for our selected textile products on preferential tariff basis. Nothing concrete is forthcoming on this. Though, the joint communiqué revives the hope of access to American market, the process is expected to take a long time. Likewise, the much-awaited setting up of ROZs in our tribal areas also continues to be mired in the circuitous procedural wonderland.
The allies must work in an atmosphere of trust and harmony for a win-win finale. If visible response to economic and power generation issues is not generated in the immediate timeframe, anti-America sentiment would continue to rise exponentially. The Americans need to be more responsive towards the sensitivities of Pakistan and materially demonstrate as carrying it along as a trusted ally. Only strategic measures would transform our relationship to a strategic level. The primary interest of America is certainly the goodwill of the people of Pakistan. This needs a paradigm shift in American approach.
 

ajtr

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How strategic was the Washington dialogue?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Dr Maleeha Lodhi

The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

Aimed at setting a new strategic direction for Pakistan-US relations and overcoming mutual mistrust, the recent talks in Washington were more significant for their atmospherics than any tangible outcome. Dialogue, of course, is a process, not an event. But the expectations raised by both sides about the fourth round had exceeded what was achieved in the two-day talks.

What emerged from the Washington encounter was already committed assistance for some development projects and a pledge to fast-track delivery of military hardware for Pakistan. Important, however, were the assurances conveyed to the Pakistani delegation that America's long-term strategic interests were consistent with Pakistan's security, and that these lay east of Afghanistan.

But despite the well-orchestrated pageantry, the strategic dialogue made little, if any, visible progress on the big-ticket issues that topped Pakistan's priorities: preferential trade, addressing the troubled Pakistan-India equation and securing access to civilian nuclear technology. While the US didn't want to say no to Pakistan's requests, it didn't say yes either.

The high-powered engagement was driven principally by US compulsions to secure Pakistan's cooperation as the Afghan endgame approaches and for the continuing fight against Al Qaeda. While the effort in the dialogue was to accord primacy to bilateral relations, Afghanistan remained the most pressing concern.

The dialogue nevertheless sought to broaden the relationship beyond a focus on security. But the agenda's expansion to ten "sectoral tracks" raised doubts about the wisdom of adding to a "strategic" dialogue multiple issues that are already the subject of ongoing discussions. This risks scattering the focus and detracting from pivotal matters.

The anodyne joint statement issued at the end of the talks was more important for what it did not say than for what it did. Absent, despite Islamabad's efforts, was any reference to US support for the resumption of formal peace talks, or composite dialogue, between Pakistan and India or the need to resolve disputes – Kashmir and water among them.

There was silence on further engagement on civilian nuclear energy. American officials told the Pakistani delegation that this was not the time to press the issue. Pakistan's minimum expectation to secure in the communiqué some kind of formal recognition of its status as a nuclear-weapons power did not materialise.

As for trade, the vague US assurance to "work towards enhanced market access" fell short of a firm commitment on trade concessions, much less hold out any prospect of a future free-trade agreement. Considering Washington has for years been unable to deliver the modest trade access under the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones initiative, Pakistani expectations of preferential trade access will have to be squared with this reality.

Nevertheless, the Pakistani delegation saw a marked change in the mood in Washington. Even though the foreign minister overstated the point by describing this as a "180-degree turn" the environment for the talks was no doubt very positive. Pakistan's army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani read this as acknowledgement of the fact that "Pakistan had as a nation stood up to terrorism."

Certainly Washington made a special effort to roll out its top national security team for the dialogue and shower praise on Pakistan for its anti-militancy efforts. This improvement in tenor helped to restore a semblance of normalcy to a relationship that has recently been under much strain.

A new willingness to listen to Pakistan's concerns and priorities was evident. These had been earlier conveyed in a 56-page document handed over to US national security adviser Gen James Jones during his February visit to Islamabad. This had, according to American officials, been carefully read in Washington.

The really substantive – and strategic – exchanges took place outside the formal dialogue process in unpublicised meetings. They included a dinner hosted by the chairman of the joint staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and attended by Gen Kayani, as well as the unannounced meeting between the top members of the Pakistani delegation and Vice President Joseph Biden. Pakistan's economic needs, India and Afghanistan apparently figured in these meetings.

Although the content of these parleys and earlier meetings at the Pentagon and Centcom headquarters have not been revealed, it is believed they focused on an immediate priority: how to manage the Afghan endgame. Views were also reportedly exchanged on how a post-war Afghanistan could be stabilised. The two sides are believed to have attained a better understanding of each other's perspectives so as to align their policy on the next steps forward.

For President Obama, whose re-election prospects hinge considerably on "success" in Afghanistan, it is critical to secure Pakistan's cooperation – militarily in implementing his surge strategy, and politically, once the ground shifts to negotiations with the Taliban. The exchanges on the sidelines of the strategic dialogue sought to determine the parameters of such cooperation.

Washington has not yet come around to seek a political settlement in Afghanistan. For now it wants to weaken, not talk to Taliban leaders. Efforts are being ratcheted up for a full-scale military offensive in Kandahar in coming weeks. The US has adopted a public posture of distancing itself from President Hamid Karzai's reconciliation efforts but has pointedly not signalled disapproval.

In congressional testimony last week Defence Secretary Robert Gates described the present US position in this way: "The shift of momentum is not yet strong enough to convince Taliban leaders they are going to lose…. It's when they have doubts whether they can be successful that they may be willing to make a deal…. I don't think we're there yet."

Washington's shoot-first-to-talk-later strategy is therefore predicated on the assumption that its military campaign will be able to weaken the Taliban. The specifics of a reconciliation strategy would then be fashioned as the situation changes on the ground.

In the light of this strategy it is unlikely that the Pakistani delegation would have heard any specifics about the timing and modalities of talks with the Afghan insurgents, even though it is apparent that they will eventually be pursued. The discussions left little doubt in the minds of Pakistani officials that Washington was looking for a way to "exit" from the Afghan war.

As for Pakistan's stance, Gen Kayani reiterated this at various forums: once a political framework for political reconciliation had been fashioned in what must be an Afghan-led initiative, Pakistan was willing to play a role. Without such a framework peace efforts would not succeed. He also reaffirmed Pakistan's interest in seeing a stable, peaceful and friendly Afghanistan.

While the talks helped both sides better understand each other's thinking, the delicate dance that lies ahead will pose many challenges. How far the Washington talks have paved the way for closer coordination will only emerge later. Islamabad will certainly expect Washington to deliver on specific assurances given to its delegation about addressing its concerns over India's military role in Afghanistan.

The future of Pakistan-US relations will hinge as much on how the Afghan endgame is played out as on other strategic issues. On the other security issues, Washington has listened to Pakistan's case but chosen to be noncommittal, even as it has tried to show more "understanding." These issues will not disappear just because Washington is unable to help address them: the unstable Pakistan-India relationship, the strategic challenges posed by the destabilising effects of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the festering Kashmir dispute, and the complexities of the water issue. Public views of the US in Pakistan will also be determined by what didn't figure in the strategic dialogue: US policies towards the Muslim world.

Pakistan's decision-makers should draw an important lesson from the talks. Given the limits on Washington's capacity to address Pakistan's concerns – just as there are constraints on Pakistan's ability to support all of America's geo-strategic interests – Islamabad needs to change its US-centric mindset, learn to mobilise its own resources, rather than look to Washington to solve all its problems and fashion a foreign policy that is in sync with the multipolar world we live in.
 

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