The Pak-US strategic dialogue has taken place, with Pakistan having prepared thoroughly for an exercise that the USA seems to be using to replace the old treaty system it developed during the Cold War to throw a ring around the USSR. Pakistan was enthusiastic about the treaty system, being the only country apart from the USA, Turkey and the UK to be a member of more than one treaty, as a member of both the Central Treaty Organisation (Turkey and Iran being the other members, the former also being a member of NATO, the main anti-Soviet military alliance) and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (which also had as members the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia). Pakistan joined SEATO because of East Pakistan, and left it when it seceded. CENTO broke up around the same time, and the replacing economic organisation, Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), did not evolve, unlike ASEAN, which took SEATOs place. The USA has eschewed regional alliances since the end of the Cold War, except for NATO, which it is expanding to include former Warsaw Pact members. But otherwise, it has engaged in a series of strategic dialogues, often with countries that might have a conflict, and thus would not like to be part of an alliance system. For example, India, which the USA courted since the 1950s, preferred to favour the USSR, never became part of the alliance system, but it is a dialogue partner with the USA since 2006, and the 'dialogue is biannual, with visits to both countries by the others delegation. This is not just because India, after the Cold War, is in search of a relationship with the USA that will be detrimental to Pakistan, but because the USA wants it as a bulwark against China. Another reason is that there is no alliance in the region which India can join. SAARC is going nowhere, not even economically, not even after it expanded to include Afghanistan, and the USA has found that it can best engage in a dialogue process. It also has gone for a dialogue with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, neither of which would have been ready to join a local alliance with the other as a member, even if one had existed, not that it does. The strategic dialogue is best understood in terms of the joint ministerial commission, thou-gh non-official members, members of the legislature or businessmen, are supposed to be part, though they are not this time. The dialogue terminology seems restricted to the USA, though it seems that China might rival it. After all, China has not only had a dialogue with Pakistan, it also has a strategic dialogue about to start with the UK. In principle, the USA should not claim a monopoly. Any bilateral relationship can be the subject of a dialogue between the two, and one can expect a time when the 'dialogue term might be used to describe talks between two rivals, such as India and Pakistan. After all, if one only realises, Pakistan and India have engaged in a dialogue now for more than 60 years, a dialogue which has been intense enough to encompass three wars and the Kashmir dispute. It is worth noting for Pakistan that the USA is taking the Indian side in the latter, which is the core dispute between the two countries. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the USAs victory in the Cold War was succeeded by the 'war on terror, and that the war became an opportunity for dialogue bilaterally, rather than the formation of new alliances. The USA has been left free to dominate its bilateral relationships, in a way that it could not in treaty alliances, even though it was dominant in all of them. However, it remains dominant in the trilateral dialogue it has with South Korea and Japan, its two long-time allies in North Asia, it has established a non-bilateral precedent. There seems no reason why the mechanism cannot be applied to multilateral contexts, and with the post-colonial expansion of the number of states, there seems to be no reason why there might not be a multilateral manifestation, or rather more than one, which excludes the USA. However, at the moment, the mechanism is being used almost exclusively by the USA, and includes what in the early 20th century were known as 'military conversations between general staffs. In fact, the dialogue mechanism has included the military conversation, and the national dialogue has often enough been prepared by one between the two militaries. The US and Indian militaries, for example, have been in direct contact. Often enough, such contacts have been glorified exercises in salesmanship by the USA. However, the presence of the Pakistani COAS in the strategic dialogue gains significance from the fact that the army has ruled Pakistan on four occasions, and its desire for American arms has been the driving force in the relationship. He is probably not being checked out as a replacement this way; there have been many opportunities in the past. However, the USA does not want to see a repetition of the past, where the elected PM denied an American wish on the plea that the COAS did not agree, and the COAS, when approached directly, said that he was a mere government servant. Also of prime importance is the 'war on terror, which is likely to form the bulk of the military conversations, and indeed to form the mass of the strategic dialogue itself. It should not be ignored that the main American interest in the region is that war, and Pakistan has only been granted a strategic dialogue because of its central role in the 'war. At the same time, the USA wants to fight it on the cheap. If it has given India a civilian nuclear deal, it will probably not want to give one to Pakistan, especially since it does not need to. After all, it has a government which is willing to obey it, in succession to a government which invited it in, in the first place. The USA probably understands that it can promise the government its support for the future, which will be enough to obtain obedience. Apart from the war, the USA is interested in another issue in which the military claims primacy, and that is the nuclear issue. The position in which Pakistan finds itself is peculiar. It is not a rogue nuclear state like Korea, and it has no pre-nuclear great-power aspirations, like India; yet it is a nuclear power with a demonstrated ability. It is not a proliferator, but it has A Q Khan, whom the USA would like to interrogate on this issue, but who Pakistan does not intend to hand over. Because of this, it is not so important to the USA what is agreed with Pakistan, as that the COAS is part of the decision. The dialogue does not seem to have produced any of the results Pakistan wanted, with the most solid result being that the USA will expedite payments that have been overdue. These are supposed to be payments for services already rendered. However, firm agreements are not supposed to be part of the strategic dialogue process, and that is another advantage for the USA. It leaves the other country to create the hype, but it does not have to agree to anything. E-mail: