Most political analysts have viewed Prime Minister Gilani's visit to Washington from the angle of whether he was able to bring round President Bush and his administration to Pakistan's point of view about the dire consequences of trying to subdue the upsurge of militant sentiments in the tribal region with force. He wanted to convince the Americans that since his government considered the War On Terror as being fought for the sake of the country's security and safety, there should be no question about its sincerity. However, conscious of the local sensitivities, its first preference was to take the course of peaceful negotiations. The US should bear with it and see the results rather than lose patience, demand armed action or decide to use force itself. The violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity was proving counterproductive inasmuch as it deepened the already widespread anti-American feelings. According to all available accounts and evidences, he was not able to cut much ice. Quite intriguingly, Western commentators have rarely tried to examine at least one cause of Pakistan's 'lax' attitude towards the militant menace in the tribal area and, perhaps, never questioned whether the US has honoured its commitment to meet its part of the bargain, which is indeed of crucial relevance to the strategy of taking the combat to a successful conclusion. Should not the indifferent attitude of the US to Pakistan's problems and demands have dampened its enthusiasm and created an adverse public opinion? Most Pakistanis, therefore, have a deep sense of doubt in the sincerity of Washington's word of an abiding friendship, even given the diplomatic truth that in international relations, friends and enemies can and do change places in the pursuit of national interests, and the word 'abiding' or 'long-lasting' has to be interpreted with that caveat in mind. The Pakistanis' suspicion is grounded in not only the experiences of the past but also the dissonance between the current American overtures and reality. The US is locked into a grim battle with terrorists and cannot defeat them, as Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher admitted while speaking to BBC the other day, without the help of Pakistan. Therefore, one should have thought that it would demonstrate genuineness in fulfilling its repeated commitments till at least Islamabad's help was no longer needed. However, the superpower's strikingly arrogant behaviour in shelving, on one pretext or the other, Pakistan's demands that do not directly relate to the so-called war against international terrorism or insufficiently meeting them has persuaded even the pro-American sections of society to suspect its intentions. The war is now being widely viewed as part of the US strategic designs in the region and by most people as directed against Muslims and Islam. The space constraints would not permit detailed references to Pakistan's grievances except dealing with them in general terms. The US has, indeed, dished out a large amount of money to Pakistan over the years to strengthen its anti-terrorist capabilities and by helping in the rescheduling of its foreign debts and encouraging direct foreign investment, it did provide a welcome relief to Pakistan's ailing economy as well. However, had it accepted Pakistan's repeated pleas of free access to its market, it would have helped the cause of anti-terrorism a great deal: given a fillip to economic and commercial activity all over the country and benefited a broad section of society. If economic deprivation nurtures extremist tendencies, as Washington argues, that gesture would have proved to be an effective response. Yet despite the fact that Pakistan's share in the global imports of the US is infinitesimal, barely 0.2 percent (US total imports amounted to over $1.7 trillion in 2005 against Pakistan's share of about $3.3 billion that year), it refused to grant the request. Could Pakistan's economy, with the best of effort, generate resources enough to overwhelm the US market? Impossible It could have marginally improved its share, but on the other hand the benefits to the people in terms of job opportunities and the consequent outcome of reduced poverty would have had a marked beneficial effect for the US. Strangely also, the US is taking a long time to establish the "reconstruction opportunity zones" - President Bush had proudly floated the idea in March 2006 when he visited Islamabad - even though these zones are directly related to an area that, it believes, causes trouble for the allied forces in Afghanistan. Now an example from the political field: The gift of 'civilian' nuclear pact with India and point blank refusal to Pakistan for a similar favour. Dr Khan's excuse is no longer valid. No government at Islamabad could now imagine loosening its control over the nuclear assets to permit proliferation. Imagine the US sense of timing and generosity to its key ally in the form of $115 million of food aid extended over two years out of which $45 million within six months or so, while the country is in an acute grip of unaffordable food prices. The $15 billion aid bill if approved by the Congress covers a period of 10 years, $1.5 per year, while the country needs a massive injection of funds in laying a network of schools and colleges, clinics and hospitals, and a host of infrastructural projects to put the country on the road to development, a vital input to eradicate extremism. E-mail: