The unilateral US Abbottabad operation predictably led to the demand in Pakistan for a review of the Pak-US relations. The joint session of Parliament held on May 13 called upon the government to revisit and review its terms of engagement with the United States with a view to ensuring that Pakistans national interests are fully respected and accommodated in pursuit of policies for countering terrorism and achieving reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan. Since then there have been numerous contacts between the leaders and senior officials of the two countries. There have also been hints of several cosmetic changes in their relationship. But one has yet to see any visible signs of a marked shift in the substance of Pakistan-US relations. For instance, the drone attacks continue despite Parliaments demand for an end to them. This is because the fundamentals of this vital relationship, which is not only marked by the convergence of interests in some areas, but also divergence in others, remains unchanged. Pakistans manoeuvrability is limited by its extreme dependence on the US in economic and military fields. Therefore, barring the adoption by Pakistan of a policy of self-reliance and a well considered grand strategy, which is grounded in a realistic appraisal of the nations power potential and the international environment, the demands for resetting Pakistan-US relations are unlikely to produce the desired results. The strength of a relationship between any two countries ultimately depends upon the convergence of their national interests, both in the short and long terms. Looked at from this angle, the Pakistan-US relations offer mutually beneficial opportunities for cooperation between the two countries in several fields because of their shared interest in issues of international peace and cooperation, peace and stability in Afghanistan and South Asia, and the struggle against international terrorism. There is no denying the fact that right now America is the most powerful nation of the world, both economically and militarily. A positive relationship with it enables Pakistan to benefit from bilateral cooperation in political, economic, commercial, scientific, technological and educational fields. On the other hand, Pakistan is a nuclear power: An important country in its region and a voice for moderation in the Islamic world. It is in the US interest, therefore, to cultivate friendly relations with Pakistan. It is also an indispensable partner for the US in the fight against international terrorism and the establishment of durable peace in Afghanistan. At the same time, there are undeniable divergences in the Pakistan-US relations. In the fight against Al-Qaeda or international terrorism, the US views Pakistan both as an asset and a problem. While there is some recognition by the US of the enormous sacrifices that Pakistan has made in men and material in the fight against terrorism, many of its policymakers continue to consider it as the epicentre of international terrorism. The fact that Osama bin Laden was ultimately found and assassinated by the US forces in Pakistan has strengthened the US suspicions about a network of support for Al-Qaeda among the people of Pakistan and at a low level in the Pakistani security agencies. Washington also considers the alleged Taliban sanctuaries in our tribal areas as a major obstacle in the realisation of its military and political objectives in Afghanistan. These two issues are the main irritants in the Pak-US relations currently. The list of divergences in the interests of Pakistan and the US extends to other issues also. It is the declared US aim to build up India as major power of the 21st century so that it may act as a counterweight to Chinas rise. The US decision to enter into civilian nuclear cooperation with India and develop close military ties with it reflects the new US policy. Pakistan, which maintains a close strategic partnership with China, has neither the desire, nor the capacity to act as a counterweight to it. So, it does not form part of the US grand design for Asia of which India constitutes an essential element. In fact, Islamabad because of the bitter experience of its past relations with New Delhi, entertains deep apprehensions about Washingtons policies to build up India. In Afghanistan, the flawed US policy of the past 10 years to defeat the Taliban militarily, which indirectly disenfranchised the Afghan Pashtuns, instead of working for national reconciliation and the establishment of a broad-based government, has prolonged the armed conflict. Washingtons constant demand on Islamabad to use its military against its own people in the tribal areas in support of the flawed US Afghan policy amounted to asking Pakistan to pull its chestnuts out of fire. Pakistans compliance with the demand has destabilised it as evidenced by the spate of acts of terrorism in the country. To the extent that the Americans have been trying to impose a government of their choice on the Afghan people in the past, they were wrong. It is only recently that the Americans appear to have realised the errors of their Afghan policy as shown by their tentative moves to engage the Taliban in negotiations. As Churchill famously said once, one can count on the Americans to do the right thing, but only after trying all the wrong ones. In short, Pakistans national interest does not lie in offering unquestioned support to American efforts to clobber the Afghan Taliban militarily, but instead in persuading Washington to work for national reconciliation and a broad-based government in that war-torn country - a government in which all the Afghan ethnic communities would have due share in power. Pakistans friendship with Iran and the US one-sided policy in support of Israel, as against the Palestinians, are other issues which act as irritants in the Pakistan-US relations. For instance, the US opposition to the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project, which is in our national interest, is well known. The long-term strategic importance of our friendship with Iran should be obvious to our policymakers. We should, therefore, have no qualms in clarifying to the Americans that our friendship with the US cannot be at the expense of our friendship with Iran. Similarly, Pakistan cannot be expected to abandon the just cause of the Palestinian people, who have been denied their national rights thanks to Israels aggressive policies. Any effort to reset the Pakistan-US relations on a durable and mutually beneficial basis must take into account the convergence and the divergence in their national interests. Such an approach would highlight both the opportunities and the limitations of the friendship between the two countries. It is vitally important that both Pakistan and the US should carefully nurture this friendship, while being cognisant of its potential as well as limitations. This would require foresight and wisdom on the part of our leadership of which unfortunately one does not see much sign these days. It would also require our government to adopt a policy of self-reliance and discard the begging bowl diplomacy. An independent and dignified foreign policy and excessive dependence on the largesse of foreign countries do not go together. The policy of self-reliance does not mean cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world, but learning to live within our means and relying primarily on our own efforts to manage our affairs and solve our problems. It also means setting foreign policy goals, which are within the reach of our national power, instead of our past approach that resulted in strategic overstretch and exhaustion. In other words, the nation badly needs a grand strategy that adequately takes into account the ground realities in the formulation of policies to achieve our national goals. Renown awaits the leadership that would have the wisdom to formulate such a grand strategy. n The writer is a retired Ambassador. Email: