"To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first." Shakespeare In recent years, Pakistan's foreign policy has been in disarray. Mostly, it has been attributed to the long years of dictatorial rule whose priorities had never suited the countrys vital interests. Therefore, whenever a democratic setup replaced military dictatorship, it had to deal with issues that had piled up during the establishments rule creating a messy situation for the country. Even today, unfortunately, the PPP government and its coalition partners are facing multiple problems created by the Musharraf regime. Against the backdrop of the incident in which Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed during a covert action by the US Navy Seals, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani embarked on a twice postponed tour of France not only to garner support for Pakistan, but also to correct the nations image that remained distorted with Western democracies. Although the PMs visit can be easily summed up as successful, it will be appropriate to review it thoroughly. Gilanis image as a low-key politician paid off when he took the entire Western media head-on about the Osama issue and articulated Pakistan's point of view forcefully. He did not mince words and pointed to the sacrifices Pakistan, its people and security personnel had made in the war on terror. He also made it clear that any misgivings about Pakistan's intentions or its policy against terrorism will be in nobody's interest. At the same time, he told critics of Pakistan's intelligence services by saying that a thorough inquiry will be conducted into the entire episode and that he was determined to get to the bottom of the issue. However, this did not mean that all previous efforts made by his government should be brushed aside by those people who, he said, had shallow thinking, especially those who are hostile to the vital interests of Pakistan. They will soon realise the folly in their criticism of this country. Mr Gilani made it clear that the entire world must recognise that the death of Osama bin Laden was in fact the beginning of the end. Therefore, PM Gilani emphasised that more cooperation at the international level would now be required to finish the job against the menace of terrorism and extremism as quickly as possible. During the visit Mr Gilani also informed the media that the British Prime Minister had called him and acknowledged the sacrifices that had been made by his country in the war against terror. Amongst his important engagements during the visit to the French capital was an address at Medef where French businessmen had gathered for a chat with him. By and large he was able to convince big business of France that it would be in the interest of the entire world if projects or joint projects were undertaken in Pakistan to not only help its economy, but also reduce extremist and terrorist activities which were in the interest of the entire world. He emphasised that the importance of France was well recognised by the entire world; It was a major player amongst the G8, G20 and even G5 countries and therefore Pakistan expected it to play a productive and positive role vis--vis not only the bilateral relations between Pakistan and France but also to help Pakistan expand its exports by lobbying for it with other members of the European Union. The mere fact that Gilani was able to convince the Chairman of the French Senate and their Foreign Minister to take up the case of Pakistan's aid with other European Union members was no mean achievement in itself. Another noteworthy feature of his visit was the commitment made by President Sarkozy that his country acknowledged Pakistan's right to civil nuclear capability. It would help Pakistan sort out its perennial energy crisis making it possible for Pakistan to set up nuclear facilities that will generate enough electricity to match the growing demand of the country consistent with fast growth of its economy. During the visit the PM also was able to convince his French hosts about the up-gradation of certain naval capabilities of Pakistan. However, for the short term the willingness of France to provide arms and ammunition to increase the capabilities of Pakistan's security apparatus in its crusade against the insurgents would be of great help. Mr Gilani was to have a one hour meeting with the French PM, but it continued for two and a half hours, underlining the importance both countries attached to each another. However, other important issues were discussed between the President of France and the Pakistani Prime Minister who called Gilani, "Guarantor of democracy" in Pakistan. This underlined the entire gamut of the negotiations that were held between the two leaders creating a better understanding between Pakistan and France and opening the doors of further cooperation. Sarkozy recognised the important role Pakistan had played in blunting the threat of terrorism and also its future role in achieving peace and tranquillity in this strategic part of the world. The French President also promised to come to Pakistan. During the week under review, the opposition, though not able to score any point due to Mr Gilanis political sagacity and low key approach, severely criticised the government for various issues of governance and in the event where the Americans breached Pakistani air space without informing the relevant authorities. On this issue also Gilani has promised to take Parliament and even political elements which are not represented there into confidence and lay before them in a most transparent way the details available with the government that culminated in the death of bin Laden. This does not mean that the Prime Ministers visit went without any hassle because a serious gaffe was noticed when he along with several other mission heads in Paris was invited by the Pakistan's Ambassador to France. Unfortunately, it was noticed that the Pakistani flag was fluttering upside down on the Embassy building, a mistake that was later corrected. The other thing that needs to be mentioned was that the food served was revolting and pathetic and one could hear whispers making the rounds during the reception. The gentleman who was supposed to look after the press, and that included local and international journalists and the visiting Pakistani journalists was not even aware of the ABC of public relations. One wonders how he would represent Pakistan during these difficult times and how he would be able to put across a correct perspective of this country before the media in Europe's most important capital. These things have been mentioned to give a wake-up call to the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Information so that they could set their house in order, enabling the country to match and compete in a hostile environment of today. n The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com