Obama and Pakistani PM Gilani Discuss Rebuilding Tense U.S.-Pakistan Relationship

President Obama met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday, in efforts to help restore U.S.-Pakistan relations. The breakdown in U.S.-Pakistan relations follows a series of incidents throughout 2011 that have marred trust between the two countries. The Raymond Davis debacle, the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and hundreds of drone strikes later, both countries have hardened their positions, which is complicating efforts to rebuild relations.

If both countries are serious about restoring ties, the United States will need to compromise a lot more than Pakistan.

Last week, Pakistani lawmakers demanded that the U.S. put an end to all drone strikes if the Obama administration was interested in reestablishing diplomatic ties. The United States has to ease up its involvement in Pakistan. While the U.S. argues that drone strikes by the CIA have aided in the killing of thousands of Taliban militants, they have done so by over-stepping Pakistan’s authority. The Pakistani lawmakers also stated that the U.S. “must review its footprints in Pakistan.”

Earlier this year, the CIA was in talks with Pakistan in which they offered to give Pakistan advance notice of drone strikes. While the U.S. has attempted to meet Pakistan in the middle regarding drone strikes, Pakistan is not willing to budge on this matter.

Pakistan wants to reestablish control over foreign security activities taking place in their country. After experiencing the embarrassment from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May and the border incident in November, Pakistan fears that the United States is failing to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

If the U.S. wants to rebuild ties with Pakistan, it will have to respect the demands of the Pakistani government. The U.S. needs Pakistan as a strategic ally and partner in the fight against Al Qaeda, however, it refuses to allow Pakistan to make decisions on how to help fight this war.

The best approach to fix the severed ties between the two countries would be a balanced one. Both countries need to be clearer about their agendas and need to take baby steps in that direction. The U.S. will need to start treating Pakistan more like a partner than a “frenemy.” Instead of the U.S. insisting it cannot end its drone campaign, it can define a time frame of how much longer it would need to carry out this mission.

It is understandable that the U.S. is reluctant to trust Pakistan, however, both nations will continue to work against each other if they do not clear the air. At this point, Pakistan is in desperate need to gain back its authority, but if the U.S. is not willing to include the Pakistani government in its mission, the situation will not improve.