CIA director Leon Panetta. — File Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are close to a reset in their knotty relations, with behind-the-scene negotiations reportedly making progress. A breakthrough is likely in days ahead.

An end to the feud will not only help resolve the dispute over immunity for jailed CIA operative Raymond Davis but also help both countries overcome the hard patch in their ties.

“There are some positive developments in ongoing negotiations,” a security official told Dawn on Monday without specifying how much ground the two sides had covered.

He, however, said both sides were ‘grudgingly accommodating each other’ to save the overall bilateral relationship.

Though there are hardly any evident markers to judge progress in dialogue on affairs of spy agencies, US Embassy’s reaction to the Lahore High Court (LHC) avoiding a ruling on immunity for Davis was quite telling.

US Embassy Spokesman Alberto Rodriguez, in a very brief comment, said: “US position is well known and we are working with Pakistani authorities to resolve the issue.”

His reaction definitely contrasted that of Ambassador Cameron Munter after the previous hearing in the case by the LHC (Feb 17), when he said: “The United States is disappointed that the government of Pakistan did not certify that Raymond Davis has diplomatic immunity”.

The immunity dispute quite expectedly remained unresolved in the LHC because Davis is no more central to this controversy, which has been overtaken by other matters pertaining to the problematic Pakistan-US security cooperation whose bedrock is the collaboration between ISI and CIA.

The Davis episode was just the latest manifestation of the disquiet in the relations between the agencies that had been going on for some time and had found varying expressions, be it the frequent CIA allegations of Pakistanis patronising jihadi groups and being insincere in fight against extremists or filing of a law suit in a New York court by relatives of Mumbai carnage against ISI chief or blowing the cover of CIA’s Islamabad station head Jonathan Banks, leading to his recall.

Notwithstanding what face this friction in ties got from time to time, US officials confirm that there had been divergences over strategic interests and timing of anti-militancy operations—a reference to Pakistan military’s reluctance to go after the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network.

As the situation reached the tipping point and both the agencies engaged in an ugly public spat, ISI sought a redefinition of its terms of engagement with CIA.

ISI’s litany of complaints against CIA included the American agency developing its own network of undeclared spies and disregarding ISI as an institution and sacrifices of its personnel.

The progress in negotiations achieved so far, a source said, was made possible because of cool heads on both sides, who realised that keeping the ISI-CIA relationship intact was in the interest of both the agencies.

Analysts believe the outcome of the dialogue was crucial for settling the row over immunity for Davis.?