The recently circulated 'National Security Strategy' document by the White House indeed radiates good omens for Pakistan, and there are prospects of long-term constructive engagement between the two countries. However, almost simultaneously The Washington Post has carried a story that the US military is studying options for a 'unilateral strike' in Pakistan in the event that a successful attack on American soil is traced to Pakistan's tribal areas. Presumably, the story was a deliberate leak by the US administration to pressurise Pakistan into taking an immediate military action in North Waziristan. One is not sure whether this media gambit would achieve the desired result in the context of North Waziristan, but certainly it torpedoed a chance for earning public goodwill, which a good National Security Strategy could have accrued to the US. It is always interesting to follow Pak-US relations, which is an intriguing mosaic of realism and emotionalism. Perpetually busting at the seams; yet readily repairable. Jockeying of bilateral relations between these two ends of the spectrum is often perplexingly fast; akin to a typical stock market functioning. The Pakistani public tends to view these relations through a prism of traditional oriental emotionalism; whereas Americans tend to gauge it through a textbook realpolitik goggle. No wonder, the perceptions by the two sides have little overlapping. An analysis of these relations at various tiers, reveal fascinating patterns, criss-crossing each other, operating something like wheels within wheels. The US administration and public opinion, as reflected bythe media, view these relations from their respective perspective. At government to government level, generally the working relations have been fairy stable and satisfactory. Irrespective of the party in White House, efforts have generally been made to stay constructively engaged with Pakistan, notwithstanding aberrations. Likewise, from the Pakistani side a deliberate effort is always visible from the government to shield these relations from critical, and at times, hostile public opinion. These days, such an effort is discernable on the issue of drone attacks. Ever since the SEATO, CENTO days, Pak-US relations have survived a number of stumbling blocks. These bilateral relations are to the advantage of both sides. So, both the governments have learnt to live with varied interpretations of legislative and legal instruments. Almost all bilateral documents of understanding have had different interpretations for the consumption of American and Pakistani public; yet these variations have never caused a critical rupture in bilateral ties. And after each rumpus both sides manage to live happily thereafter. The Kerry-Lugar episode is a recent example. Traditionally, the Congress has been the ripple generating forum; it is perceived in Pakistan as an institution looking out for a chance to portray Pakistan negatively and eager to attach strings to the facilities that the administration envisions to extend to Pakistan. Moreover, the Congress opinion has always been construed as swayable by lobbyists. Sponsors of anti-Pakistan strictures in the Congress like Glenn, Symington, Pressler, Brown, and Kerry-Lugar are household names in Pakistan, with negative tags. The intent of some of these legislators was, though, to provide relief to Pakistan under difficult circumstances, through country specific legislation. The US media also has its share in shaping the relations. Government-sponsored leaks, independent as well as interest motivated media coverage make a composite effect. Seemingly, the public opinion in Pakistan is significantly influenced by the US media, which has larger than life size representation of naturalised Indians. This group is by default primed to act as spoilers. Hence, it is not surprising that most of the negative reporting regarding Pakistan is directly or indirectly authored or advanced by this group. This phenomenon causes a reverse wave effect in Pakistan. Almost every negative media report originating from America creates a counter frenzy here. By the time clarifications start coming in, the damage is done. It is happening with such a frequency and regularity that there is neither any dearth of anti-Pakistan reporting by the American media, nor that of anti-America sentiment in Pakistan, at least at a common man level. This negative image projection is so sticky that the segments of our society, who evaluate Pak-US relations only on the basis of American media inputs, tend to miss so many well meaning steps being taken by so many other government and non-government agencies in the US. This approach reinforces the 'Ugly American' legacy. Next is Pakistani intelligentsia. This small but influential constituency tries to form its own opinions on the basis of multiple inputs. Some of them reach varying conclusions, from finding faults with America, to blaming Pakistan's eagerness to have a role much larger than its strategic strength. However, apart from a razor thin minority clinging to these two extremes, majority is convinced about the necessity of sustained viable relations between the two states. On the whole, the Pakistani intelligentsia is always busy finding middle ground during each crisis like situation. Since the conclusion of 'Strategic Dialogue' between the two countries, the relations appear to have moved onto the right track; trust deficit has reduced rapidly. It appears that both sides have begun to take care of each other's sensitivities. Overall handling of the Time Square episode has been satisfactory, barring the initial knee-jerk reactions, which were like a flash flood, trying to wash aside the impact of good work that had been done during the strategic dialogue days. The US and Pakistan are fighting a common foe. The Pakistani nation has made tremendous sacrifices to stamp out terrorists and the people do not subscribe to the way of living that extremists claim to promote. Our tribal population has gone through the agony of leaving their homes, more than once, to facilitate unhindered military operations against extremists. All these efforts by the Pakistani nation are duly acknowledged by the comity of nations, yet in the Pak-US context these get overshadowed by clumsy rhetoric. There is a need to elevate Pak-US relations above the level of day-to-day fire-fighting. Institutional frameworks need to be strengthened to close the gaps, which are often exploited by speculative rumour mill. Being a bigger country the onus of bringing maturity to the bilateral relations rests mainly with America. The writer is a retired air commodore of Pakistan Air Force. Email: