There could not be a more telling backdrop to the visit of the Senator John McCain-led congressional delegation over the weekend.
In Kabul, the terrorists had ambushed five police buses and killed dozens of cadets; in Istanbul, they bombed the airport complex killing and injuring scores of passengers; they butchered 20 foreigners in a Dhaka café and exploded a car bomb in Baghdad claiming lives of some 200 Eid shoppers.
In this sea of chaos and carnage, Pakistan was relatively peaceful, essentially because of the successful anti-terrorism military operation Zarb-e-Azb conducted by the armed forces, with a sharper focus on terrorist hideouts in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
So no surprise the first Pakistani leader American legislators decided to call on was Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.
They visited the Foreign Office and got a briefing from Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz after their briefing at the GHQ. They also asked for, and got, a visit to the North Waziristan because it was here that most decisive battle was given to the terrorists breaking the back of the ever lurking spectre of terrorism.
Given its high altitude, tough terrain and impregnable forest this was so much a forbidding challenge. The visit to North Waziristan must have been of special interest to Senator McCain, an ex-naval aviator who carries the scars of the Vietnam War. In similar war conditions the mighty armed forces of his country had lost to the Vietcong.
Hopefully, his visit helped him appreciate the merit in Pakistan’s demand for release of its F-16s, the aircraft needed so much to conduct precision bombing of terrorist hideouts in high-altitude mountainous terrains like the Shawal valley in North Waziristan. We tend to believe on return, as promised by him, “he would brief the US Congress appropriately for continued US support to Pakistan in its efforts towards economic development and complete eradication of terrorism from the country”.
At the same time he would help shut down the ‘do more’ cry that keeps coming from Washington.
The visiting US Senators are also said to have realised that if for nothing else it is Pakistan’s singular success against terrorist outfits which should earn it American commitment that the US-India bonhomie shall not impinge upon or diminish the importance of Pakistan for the United States.
But for timely intervention by some friends the United States would have succeeded in securing India the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at the cost of Pakistan. Of course Pakistan was disappointed, and would like Washington to make amends to its negative mindset on Pakistan’s nuclear programme by an ensuing strategic balance in South Asia.
Encouragingly, the visiting Senators are said to have appreciated Pakistan’s stand on Afghanistan, particularly its demand that an effective mechanism for border management with Afghanistan should be put in place to avert serious mishaps like the one that recently took place at Torkham.
Sartaj Aziz briefed the US visitors on his meeting with his Afghan counterpart on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Tashkent, reminding them that Pakistan remains committed to raison d’ etre of the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Committee.
“No country had as much vital stakes in the success of these (QCC) joint efforts as Pakistan,” the Pakistani side conveyed to the visiting American senators.
Of course, it would be hazardous to believe that Senator John McCain’s visit would turn on the page of distrust that has come to infect Pak-US relationship, especially since the Obama’s White House is set about ‘containing China’ with the help of Modi’s India.
But certainly his visit gave Islamabad the much-needed opportunity to convey its mind to the United States. Washington needs to perceive Pakistan in its correct perspective – it is Pakistan which has established beyond any shadow of doubt that war against international terrorism is winnable; strategic balance in South Asia is necessary for regional peace and stability and that for Pakistan a peaceful Afghanistan is its best option.