John Kerry’s first visit to Pakistan as secretary of state. Things are looking, if not good, at least better. The strategic dialogue on security issues is back on the agenda. The mood music sounds, if not soothing, more dulcet than in the recent past.
Islamabad and Washington appear to be, if not friends again, at least no longer eyeball to eyeball.
This is exactly what America’s chief diplomat needed to accomplish. In recent years, Pakistan has been miffed by multiple irritants: Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who was arrested in Lahore after he shot and killed two Pakistanis who he said were threatening him; US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal northwest; the mistaken killing of Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border in 2011, and the US raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.
And Washington has been frustrated by Pakistan’s apparent inability or unwillingness to eradicate terrorist safe havens, some of which are allegedly used to launch cross-border attacks on US troops in Afghanistan.
But Mr Kerry has been able to smile the strategic security dialogue back on.
As I wrote in the Hindustan Times back in March, For policy wonks in the war room, the biggest elephant is Pakistan and Kerry is arguably the American best placed to speak — and be heard — by both the generals in Rawalpindi and political sharpshooters in Islamabad.”
Mr Kerry’s ‘war record’ in Pakistan is considered more extensive than almost any previous US secretary of state before taking office. And he’s also thought to have more of an inclination towards Pakistan than almost any US secretary of state other than possibly John Foster Dulles.
At his confirmation hearing, Mr Kerry told fellow senators that America’s best hope in Pakistan was to be soft and silken, not “sledgehammer”.
Except more of the soothing mood music and smiley family pictures.