— File Photo
— File Photo

ISLAMABAD, June 28: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to be keen to make a mark on the country’s foreign policy and has been putting an extra focus on building personal rapport with the American leadership.

His interest in directly managing the foreign policy was quite evident from the fact that he kept the foreign affairs portfolio with himself and one of his first actions after becoming prime minister was to write letters to the country’s ambassadors in foreign capitals about his priorities. But what’s a little surprising is the way Mr Sharif, once a harsh critic of US policies in the region, has been warming to the Americans.

The visit of James Dobbins, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, this week was one such instance that caught the attention of diplomatic observers.

Dobbins’ schedule in Islamabad initially did not include a meeting with the prime minister. He was to meet Foreign Affairs and National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz at the Foreign Office and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

But the prime minister put aside the protocol and invited the US emissary to his office and instructed that all meetings would take place there, including the one with Gen Kayani.

The prime minister, a source at his office said, didn’t want to miss an opportunity to interact with the senior US official who would be reporting about his trip directly to the White House.

According to some alert ears in the meeting room, Mr Sharif sought for himself a role in Afghan peace process and more than once expressed his desire for stronger relationship with Washington.

Earlier in his interaction with Secretary of State John Kerry, he had emphasised on ‘high-level exchanges’ to improve understanding between the two sides.

“The prime minister stressed the need for Pakistan and the United States to remain closely engaged,” Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said at a media briefing.

Mr Sharif has reportedly also asked his foreign policy advisers not to press too hard on the drone controversy.

One of his senior foreign policy aides confirmed this at a background briefing and said: “The government will not like to make it a hot button issue and instead try to convince the Americans that disadvantages of the strikes outweigh the strategic benefits.”

This seemed to go against the policy of the PML-N when it was in the opposition. Mr Sharif’s party rode on a wave of anti-Americanism and anti-drone sentiments during the election campaign.

“A new relationship has to be built with the US in which point of divergences has to be minimised,” his aide explained.

Though the Sharif government is under immense pressure from Saudi Arabia, where he spent his days in exile, to stay away from the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, some recent developments show that it would be the American concern that would count in the ultimate decision.

The PML-N government has asked its legal advisers to review the pipeline project in the context of US sanctions. Moreover, a decision has reportedly been taken in principle about not involving Iranian company Tadbeer in laying gas pipeline in Pakistani territory on the grounds that it violates US sanctions.

But unfortunately despite all his overtures, the Americans still look at Mr Sharif sceptically and are studying his moves in the government, a senior Western diplomat said. His party’s stance on the US during five years in the opposition still haunts his prospects of becoming a reliable ally in Islamabad.


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Comments (10) (Closed)


akram
Jun 29, 2013 02:35pm

Why is Nawaz Sharif even entertaining Saudi dictat regarding the IP Pipeline? Does Saudi entertain our concerns about indian expats in saudi and sending huge amount of money from saudia into the indian economy?

Pakistan needs to focus on its own interests and forget the self serving saudis. IP pipeline is in our national interest. We should not budge from it for anyone. It is likely to play a part longer term in Nawaz Sharif's plans for his energy corridor anyway so I fail to see the logic in wasting time even listening to saudi views which only stem from their fear of the rise of Iran.

Iran is our neighbour and we should have good relations with it, again our national interests surely should prevail rather than the interests of some foreign autocratic monarchy which will probably overthrown some time soon.

S. A. M.
Jun 29, 2013 05:37pm

or is he trying to ensure that nothing goes against him in these meetings particularly the one with the Army Chief?

TamzaK
Jun 30, 2013 02:22am

A good sign that "... the way Mr Sharif, once a harsh critic of US policies in the region, has been warming to the Americans." Shows that he has figured out who runs the world. Making the same mistake again ... stay non-aligned across Russia-US-China.

Tahseen Khan
Jun 30, 2013 08:48am

This man is now trying to get richer on the American Aid money he expects to get from US. I am just hopping that the US government is able to see this as I do. Even if the US sees through this guy and see that it is in the Us gov. interest, they will give him the money in the name of Aid to the people of Pakistan and fool both the American people & the Pakistani people - they all corrupt, from US to Pakistan.

Naeem Syed
Jun 30, 2013 03:44pm

I was shocked to see him with the British PM. He was portly in shalwar Kameez but now is definitely fat,overweight and looks uncomfortable in a suit. He looked listless, disinterested and his speech was mechanical.This man has every conceivable look of being Shell shocked. How his plan to grab the votes from Imran succeeded beyond his dreams. A look of disbelief how effortlessly he actually became PM, Now that he is there,he is shocked that the people actually expect him to do what he promised during the election campaign. Best to stay out of sight and look busy and let the boys do what is necessary as they have always done in the Past.These are standard operating procedures and are not going to solve our problems. We need him to be more visible, more in your face every day,someone look as if he is actually doing something positive.You in fact Shahbaz Sharif is more of the PM that we expected than the Nawaz we got. He has a historical opportunity of putting the Country on its feet or just be a lame Duck.

syed baqar ahsan
Jun 30, 2013 08:49pm

Mian sahib American's confused priority that matters in this region they are always sailing in number of boats, forget USA/UK/KSA just watch country's interest,correct own systems, self accounting and be sincere to Chinese to progress.These western countries always keep us in limbos/delays on all agreements.

@H__3
Jun 30, 2013 09:35pm

@akram: Hello! Did you forget who got Nawaz out of jail and fed him and his kin for 7 years? Nawaz does have a history of ultimately ditching his benefactors (Gen Zia for instance) unfortunately however it does not look like the Saudi influence is going to wane anytime soon

Mazhar Hussain
Jul 01, 2013 01:00am

It is high time that Pakistan works in its own interest. Keeping all happy at one time is not possible neither desired. Our Govt should adopt a more neutral but balanced foreign policy and prioritize international relations based on how best internal front can be stabilized in terms of getting rid of terrorism, retrieving economy from shambles and eradicating corruption. Recognizing and exploiting inherent internal strength and using the resilience of nation in face of all odds is essential.

A Kashmiri
Jul 01, 2013 12:47pm

@akram: very well said.

ayesha
Jul 01, 2013 01:38pm

The usual "politics" has started. Shame on these so called leaders. Pakistani nation is dying and their self interest is still above national interest.