For the past some time now, both the US and the Nato have been making positive gestures towards Pakistan without lacing them with critical remarks. The mantra of “do more” and the urgent need for Pakistan Army to move against the Haqqani group in North Waziristan has, not been heard of for quite a while. That shift in attitude has, most probably, occurred because with the date of departure from Afghanistan getting nearer, they can ill afford to pick holes in Islamabad’s fight against terrorism, if they want it to play a helpful role in the process. It must be noted that Pakistan as well has stepped forward and released nine Taliban leaders in order to facilitate the process of peace and reconciliation, and in a recent meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar promised to set more of them free. It is widely assumed that among those who are likely set at liberty would be Mulla Baradar, whose release Kabul has been asking for. A senior US official, at a briefing on the joint meeting of EU Political and Security Committee and the EU Military Committee held on Monday at Brussels, disagreed with a journalist who remarked that Pakistan was reluctant to let Pakistan-based Taliban leaders to join the peace and reconciliation process. Rather, the official said, Islamabad was keen to help the process move on. He added that Pakistan and Afghanistan had already formed a group to provide safe passage to the Taliban. About the upswing in Pak-US relations, the official observed that the two countries were systematically identifying their shared interests so that they could jointly act on them. He said, “I think the Pakistanis are actually pressing forward (on improving relations) because, like a lot of people in the region, they recognise that 2014 is not so far away.”

COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who is in Brussels to attend these meetings asked the participants to take note of Pakistan’s sacrifices and contribution to the war on terror. At another meeting, Nato Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen told Ms Khar that the alliance understood that Pakistan had paid a high price in combating the scourge and that it had full Nato support in this effort. Foreign Minister Hina Khar was also assured by officials of Nato’s North Atlantic Council that they were ready to “develop political dialogue and cooperation with Pakistan”. In short, Pakistan’s role was applauded by the US as well as the Nato.

The conclusions that one can draw from these meetings point to a better understanding between the US and Nato on the one hand, and Pakistan on the other which is, no doubt, a good sign. The US even if it makes a complete exit from Afghanistan would continue to have interests in the region and Pakistan cannot possibly afford to be on the wrong side of it. Relations that are mutually beneficial and respect the sovereignty and integrity of each other would be in the interest of the both to maintain. We must build on the present positive shift.