Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, right, shakes hand with US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, left, as the new US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, center, looks on prior their meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, March 7, 2011. – Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: The resolution of the crisis involving Raymond Davis should have brought about a substantial improvement in Pakistan’s relations with the US, but a new irritant — the drone attack that killed 45 people in North Waziristan on Thursday — has served to erode any goodwill that may have been generated by the departure of the CIA operative.

On Friday, Islamabad announced that it had decided to pull out of next week’s trilateral ministerial meeting between the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan in protest against the deadly attack on a jirga.

The tough message from Islamabad was delivered to US Ambassador Cameron Munter after he was summoned to the Foreign Office, where Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir handed over a demarche on the drone attack in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan.

This is the second time that a state has pulled out of the trilateral meeting, which had been rescheduled for March 26 in Brussels. Earlier, the US had pulled out of the meeting that was initially planned for February 23-25 in Washington because of a diplomatic standoff with Islamabad over the Davis issue.

Two days after the CIA operative’s release that followed a “re-definition of intelligence cooperation contours” in the words of security officials, Pakistan’s foreign ministry was suggesting that the fundamentals of the broader Pak-US ties be revisited.

“It was evident that the fundamentals of our relations need to be revisited,” Secretary Salman Bashir was quoted as having told Ambassador Munter.

The Foreign Office, which has been extremely mild in the demarches issued to US envoys in the past, tried to up the ante on Friday, probably to counter the general impression that Davis was released because Islamabad could not withstand Washington’s pressure.

Hence, not only did Mr Bashir caution against treating Pakistan as ‘a client state’, but also warned the Obama administration to rein in the trouble-makers.

“It was for the White House and the State Department to hold back those who have been trying to veer the Pakistan-US relationship away from the track.”

The foreign secretary is believed to have been alluding in this comment to the CIA, which controls the drone strikes. Even though CIA’s collaboration with the ISI is touted to be the bedrock of bilateral security cooperation, the truth is that the two agencies’ divergence on strategic issues is the root-cause of the troubled ties between Washington and Islamabad – the Davis saga was one manifestation of the malaise.

The Foreign Office statement said Mr Munter acknowledged the seriousness of the matter and that he would travel to Washington to convey the message.

“Ambassador Munter said that he understood clearly that this was not a proforma demarche. He will rush to Washington to convey Pakistan’s message to the US administration at the highest levels,” the statement noted.

Publicly Pakistani officials deny any agreement with the US over drone strikes, but recently a senior military official acknowledged the effectiveness of the attacks when he said that most of those killed were hardcore militants and that there was little collateral damage.

Despite official protests, which too had stopped lately, drone attacks in Fata were never among the red lines conveyed by the PPP-led government to the Obama administration, documents available with Dawn show. Red lines refer to actions that Islamabad would not accept.

CIA’s Special Activities Division has been carrying out attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan using pilotless drones since 2004. This year there have so far been 19 drone strikes in which about 95 people have been killed.

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