President Obama has delivered his landmark speech sending a message of 'redefining relationship' with over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. He called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims" and said that, together, they could confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. The pivotal remarks coincide with Mr Holbrooke's latest visit to Pakistan where he has promised more aid for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Addressing a joint press conference with Mr Zardari, he said: "We are committed to helping you in strengthening democracy and defeating militants who threaten democracy in Pakistan, democracy in Afghanistan and stability throughout the region." Polemics apart, if the US were genuinely sincere in arresting its fast-declining image in the Muslim world, it would have to change track in a far more comprehensive manner than it has so far indicated since the induction in office of President Obama. Included in the recipe for redefining this relationship should be a realisation that there are issues which are central to the interests of the Muslims of the world, including Palestine and Kashmir, which have also become the breeding grounds for militancy. These issues reflect principal cases where the inalienable rights of the Muslim people have been usurped and they are being kept in bondage by two 'democracies' that are fully backed, even sustained, by the US. This is an inherent contradiction that the US would have to address as part of any redefining of policy for the Muslim world. The grievances are deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Muslims and no amount of semantic shift in stance and stress would convince them to change their belief that the US is not a friendly country. This perception has further compounded in the last decade due to the maniacal aggression that the US has exhibited by attacking Afghanistan and Iraq resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. The continuing presence of the US forces in these countries is also construed as an act inimical to the interests of the Muslim world. It is no less than a small wonder how, over decades, the US leadership has indulged in gross self-destruct in its relationship with the Muslims. I remember growing up in the sixties looking upon the US as a dependable friend. That perception was quickly replaced by one of horror at the realisation how conveniently the US used its friends and then dropped them. Pakistan's conflicts with India, their advisability notwithstanding, provide an ample basis for the people of this country to stop looking towards the US for any meaningful help during its times of crises. Instead of extending support to an ally, Pakistan was repeatedly penalised through imposition of damaging unilateral restrictions. The relationship underwent a mega change when the US decided to take on the Russians in Afghanistan. Pakistan had an obscurantist military dictator ruling the country who had barged in by staging a coup against a democratically elected government. He was desperately looking for some legitimacy as, unfortunately, most of the governments in Pakistan have been eager for including the incumbent aberration. He was quick to plunge Pakistan into the cauldron of war in a neighbouring country, thus invoking the evils of drugs, arms and militancy. The mujahideen of the Afghan war were speedily dispensed with once the objectives of the operation were achieved and the Russians quit Afghanistan. Overnight, these "harbingers of freedom" had become the despicable terrorists who had to be eliminated. The US left, but it is Pakistan that has continued to bear the brunt of its ill-advised participation in an alien war. Over ten years later, we had another military dictator ruling the country when the US decided to invade Afghanistan in the wake of the attacks of 9/11. True to tradition, the capitulation was instant and complete without considering the impact Pakistan's participation in another alien war would have on its short- and long-term interests nationally, regionally and internationally. As expected, the US has got bogged down in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to reap a excruciating harvest of bloodshed in its midst. It is now engaged in a full-scale war in the Malakand region, mostly against its own people, that is showing no signs of abating in the near future. After forcing it into launching the operation, the US is consistently engaged in buying the loyalty of the NROed leadership by doling out funds under one pretext or the other. The objectives are clear: a war that was never ours is now being transformed into a war that Pakistan is fighting for its own survival. While its people are living under constant threat of suicide attacks, its army is losing its dedicated and brave officers and soldiers in a war that, albeit necessary in essence, is patently ill-advised in its larger context with no outcome in sight. Throughout the years, it is the US that has reaped all the benefits of an inequitable relationship with Pakistan. It has supported and sustained, even helped come into power, a string of military dictators in the country who have inflicted grievous damage on the national democratic polity and the burgeoning aspirations of a nation. As the people writhe under increasing threat to their life and property, the US continues to escalate the intensity and the expanse of a war that is not in Pakistan's interest. Together with endangering the future of a country, it has plunged the entire region into an internecine conflict with disastrous consequences. As Mr Holbrooke comes to Pakistan with another instalment of financial rewards for services rendered, it is time our leadership started paying some attention to what is in Pakistan's interest. Does Pakistan's interest lie in the continuation of a war that was never ours, and that would never be ours, or does it lie in extricating from a conflict speedily by revisiting its objectives and strategy? The principal component of any agenda to redefine relationship with the Muslim world would be a US announcement of withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan without any further delay. It would then be time for all the players to get together and deliberate what is best for the countries involved as well as for the region as a whole. The continuing bloodbath may be serving the US interests by fostering the concept of war in lands far off, but it is definitely not in the interest of the countries of this region. They should work for a convergence of objectives and get down to formulating a strategy to bring the conflict to an end, with or without the US support The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com