Washington, 9 March 2012. When Pakistan is asked to do more in the war against terror, it does not go well with the Pakistanis because “we are doing what we can”, says Ambassador Sherry Rehman.
“We will respect the time that it takes them” to complete a parliamentary review of Pakistan’s relations with the US and “we look forward to hearing from them when they’re ready,” says State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.
The two statements coincide with a report by Washington Post’s associate editor, David Ignatius, on Thursday, saying that the United States and Pakistan have now decided to build a “calmer, quieter relationship with lower expectations, greater distance and fewer feuds”.
At a Women’s Day function on Wednesday night, the largest ever at the Pakistan Embassy, Ambassador Rehman noted that “the Pakistan story you hear in Washington is often only about the country that fights the frontlines of terror and extremism”.
This, she said, was a wrong impression.
“We are not just about bombs and bullets, Pakistan is also about women who lead the way forward,” the ambassador said.
“We have had a woman prime minister, women speakers, judges, foreign ministers, and now we have a major general”.
Referring to the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and others killed in the fight against terrorism, Ambassador Rehman said: “Many better people before me have had to take bullets … so when we are asked to ‘do more’ it doesn’t go down too well.”
“We are doing what we can with a war next door, a war that the combined resources of the US and forty plus nations have not been able to win,” she said.
At the State Department, spokesperson Nuland told journalists that the US understood Pakistan’s need to review the relationship.
“We continue to be in dialogue with them about an appropriate time for us to resume our own discussion,” she said.
Ms Nuland also refused to criticise Pakistan over the Iran gas pipeline project.
The Washington Post report noted that this changed tone indicated a new understanding between the US and Pakistan.
“The two countries, in effect, have taken a step back from their intense partnership and moved toward a more pragmatic framework,” Mr Ignatius wrote.
Both sides seem to have become comfortable with the decision to maintain a distance with each other, he noted.
To complete this reset, the two nations will have to work out “quiet compromises” on three key issues: drone strikes, border access to Afghanistan; and reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
“On each, the trick will be finding a formula that balances Pakistani sovereignty and American security interests,” Mr Ignatius wrote.
The drone attacks, he noted, had already reduced and the US now closely monitors the strikes, preventing the CIA from making unilateral decisions.