That Pakistans DG ISI was at the CIAs Langley headquarters was not remarkable in itself, but it was more remarkable because both the DG and his host, the Director Central Intelligence (DCI), were meeting for the first time since the Raymond Davis affair had made apparent what was wrong in the relationship between both countries.
There should be no mistake made that the meeting may have been between two spy chiefs, but the dialogue between the two was actually between the two countries, and the issues that were discussed had more to do with the countries relations, rather than the relations between the two agencies.
However, there was a clear disparity visible.
The USAs DCI was a Cabinet-level appointee, and a civilian.
The DG ISI was also an appointee, but by the Chief of Army Staff, who puts up the name of a serving Lieutenant-General for the job.
The DG does not wear uniform, but remains eligible for promotion.
The present COAS, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is the only Army Chief to have held this particular post, which is otherwise the high point of a career, though General Akhtar Abdur Rehman is the only other DG ISI to have won promotion to full General, when he was made Chairman JCSC a year before he was among those who died along with Ziaul Haq in the Bahawalpur air crash.
Then there is a difference in roles.
The ISI has a vast remit; the CIA is restricted to foreign operations.
The two learnt to work together during the war in Afghanistan with the USSR.
That was when the ISI first stopped the CIA from doing what it now so strenuously objects to, and which it is more or less sure that Davis was trying to do: establish CIA networks in Pakistan.
The ISI also objects to the way its officials are treated, and if Davis had not tried to shoot his way out of whatever situation he thought he had landed in, something else would have been brought up.
However, the CIA operatives feel justified in their ham-handed behaviour because the ISI Chief just received an extension at the hands of a COAS on his second term, which was only granted after the US intervened in his favour through its Secretary of State.
At the same time, before the expiry of that extension, the present CIA Chief, Judge Leon Panetta, will have been replaced.
The USA sees a wider role for intelligence officers, what with General Omar Suleiman becoming President of Egypt and Ben Ali of Tunisia himself having started life, as an Intelligence Chief for the late Habib Bourguiba.
However, the two countries have got more grievances than an imperial powers officials behaving imperially.
The USA has got two major grievances: First, that the Pakistan army is not conducting an operation in North Waziristan; and second, that it, through the Haqqani network, is backing a section of the Taliban.
Pakistans objections centre around the USAs departure from the region.
It is particularly anxious about how much of a role it intends to give India in the region.
It seems that the US is giving India so much of a role that Pakistan must contemplate the possibility of having New Delhi mediate its foreign relations, including those with the US as well as with Afghanistan.
The USA will not be deflected from its purpose, which is now becoming too obvious to ignore, that is, of making India its regional counterweight in the region, a role it expects it to play against China, whose coming emergence as a great power it hopes to balance with India.
Pakistan is not just too small to play the role, but is too friendly to China to play it.
One converse has been the fact that the USA is facing pressures like that with the ISI.
The ISI does not see the Haqqani network as that much of a problem as the USA.
The network was originally founded during the Afghan jihad by Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani of the Younis Khalis Group of the Hizb-i-Islami, the party with which the ISI seems to have developed links through the JUI, including the JUI-F.
However, it is now effectively run by Jalaluddins son, Sirajuddin.
The ISI seems to want the settlement of Afghanistan to include the Haqqani network, which the Americans accuse of fighting against them.
The Americans have felt the pressure from the Haqqani network sufficiently for US Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen to have gone public with accusations against the ISI.
Again, the hand of India can be detected.
It needs to dominate Afghanistan to the extent that, unlike in its previous wars with Pakistan, it can confront Pakistan with a two-front conflict.
That domination of Afghanistan appears to have been given the green signal by the USA, and the outcome of negotiations for a withdrawal must thus exclude pro-Pakistan elements, like the Haqqani network, or the Taliban.
It must be seen as significant that the DG ISI also accompanied the COAS and the Prime Minister on their visit to Kabul.
This is a visit which the USA claims not to know anything about, and which is supposed to have seen Pakistan and Afghanistan arrive at a consensus about the talks that must precede any settlement of the conflict.
There has been a lot of emphasis placed on not letting ties unravel, which alone indicates how badly the Raymond Davis affair affected them.
Davis must have had a lot he could say for the Americans to be so worried about him, but the ties were already clearly strained, and the spy thereby also served as an excuse for a re-examination of ties, which had not only the ISI Chief making the pilgrimage to Washington, but also the Foreign Secretary.
One effect of all this activity has not happened.
The CIA has not accepted that its drone attacks are counterproductive, and has announced that they will continue.
This reflects both ISI failure as well as complicity.
The failure to convert the Davis affair into the acceptance of its point of view, as well as the fact that when the original permission of the attacks was given, the ISI must have been on board.
Another foreign trip that must be noted is that of Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh to Washington to negotiate with the IMF for the release of succeeding tranches.
While in Washington, at a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Dr Sheikh told an audience that the USA was not giving as much aid as supposed.
The Pakistani policymakers should note Americas own budget difficulties and its corollary, that it is likely to be even more tight-fisted in future.
However, the significance of Dr Sheikhs remarks really emerge when their relevance to the Davis affair is seen, that a lot of circles think that getting him back was merely a matter of stopping Pakistans aid.
It should be further noted that Dr Sheikh was also serving notice that the Pakistan army would not do what the USA wanted it do: carry out an operation in North Waziristan and abandon the Haqqani network.
If the US wanted to show its importance, this episode has done so.
No country has had to go through so much, down to having its citizens killed.
The recent strains in the relationship really show that it should not be carried on, because the wishes of the Pakistani people are not reflected in the war on terror, which the Americans have ensured stays entirely their war, in which any other countrys role remains subordinate to the USAs.
n Email: maniazi@nation.