By Anna Varfolomeeva
BEIJING— (October 21 —M4relay) – US President Barack Obama will not visit Pakistan during his Asian tour next month, but has committed to a trip to the key US anti-terror ally in 2011. The news came as the Obama administration began three days of talks with Pakistani leaders in Washington. The two sides are seeking to ease tensions over the muscular new U.S. strategy in the region, CNN reported. Counterterrorism cooperation is also a major aspect of the talks.
The Pakistan American Leadership Centre said, “President Obama’s visit to Pakistan would send a strong signal of partnership and respect and reaffirm a mutual commitment to broadening our strategic alliance into the kind of multidimensional relationship initiated by the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue earlier this year.”
The two sides are holding talks at a time when US-Pakistan relations are strained over the killing of Pakistani soldiers by a NATO helicopter in a border region with Afghanistan. The incident led a temporary closure of a supply route into Afghanistan by the Pakistani government.
“The fact that he has agreed to visit Pakistan next year, the fact that he has decided to invite the president of Pakistan to the United States of America, that is the level of engagement that is taking place,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.
Some commentators according to Pakistan Observer however say it would be an insult if Obama failed to visit Pakistan while touring the country’s arch-rival and neighbor, India.
Taha A Gaya, executive director of PALC, said that Obama’s decision to visit the region without stepping foot into Pakistan – a country considered to be a strategic partner to the U.S., and a nation that was recently hard hit by crippling floods would be very hurtful and insulting to the people. “It’s as simple as if you and I are friends and I always say if you come to DC, you have to come visit my house and you come to DC and not visit me, obviously I will be very hurt and insulted,” said Gaya
“So, it’s that kind of sensitivity. It’s like if you come to my neighborhood, you have to come to my house if you are really my friend. You have to stay with me and you have to let me feed you and you and I have to check on each other and see how we are doing and catch up,” Gaya said.
According to CNN, U.S. patience with Pakistan’s inability to crack down on militants is wearing thin, especially among members of Congress. Administration officials say the United States will warn the Pakistani leaders that it would be hard to persuade Capitol Hill or the American public to continue supporting the country if Pakistan failed to intensify its efforts to crack down on militants in its tribal areas, or if a terrorist plot against America was traced back to terrorists being given safe haven in Pakistan.
The rescheduled trip might be a sign of Washington’s discontent, but Pakistan has sacrificed tremendously for the war on terrorism. It is Pakistani peaceful citizens who die almost every day because of the inaccurate drones’ attacks. A recent survey shows that nine out of every ten people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) of Pakistan oppose the US military and drone campaign to pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban in their region. Somehow, drone attacks are the core idea of the U.S. new military strategy in the region.
According to USA Today, American officials believe that Pakistan intelligence officials are aiding Taliban insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan. But the U.S. wants to remain an ally with Pakistan’s government.
*Anna Varfolomeeva is an international report at M4 Media