Economy, Energy, Education and Terrorism , three Es and a T (EEET) were the main areas of focus from the Pakistan’s side when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with president Obama on Wednesday, but the meat (essence ) of the meeting remains hidden elsewhere. There may be differing views about prioritization of agenda points and achieving objectives of this meeting but Pakistan seems to have achieved few very subtle and important outcomes , though less visible and less talked about, may be , they are : a trend in Pakistani media of more balanced analysis of bilateral relations and realistic assessment of contours of Pak- US relations : secondly realization on Pakistan’s side to come out of denial mode as Prime Minister accepted the need to put our own house in order first ; thirdly repositioning of communications as Prime minister shared more truth and told much more about what was discussed during the meeting by going way beyond usual stereotype statements like “ both sides discussed matters of mutual interest and bilateral co- operation ……..” and also Pakistan taking up and talking about vital issues like Kashmir in a face to face meeting.
The agenda of the meeting was quite broad as the joint statement issued by the White House puts it “President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif held wide-ranging discussions at the White House today about the importance of a U.S.-Pakistan partnership built on a foundation of mutual interest and respect”. Agenda and priority of points has been contested by many, but the fact remains that wide range of issues depicted a level of comfort to communicate divergent interests, the matters that concern each state in a peculiar way and also the convergence of interests or the shared concerns of both the states. The meeting, as agreed by most analysts in Pakistani, at least served as a confidence building measure.
The way this visit was discussed in Pakistani media reflected a subtle shift in both the state owned and private channels marked by more balanced approach. Previously PTV reports and talk shows about visits of Heads of State or Government would just play the trumpet of visit being the most successful without gauging outcomes against objectives, but surprisingly this time the State TV was very realistic about the expectations and achievements right from the beginning and chance was given to a diverse range of analysts.
Private media also invited more balanced panels and applied more rationale in weighing pros and cons. Though cheeky tilt remains there in the gossip about ‘meat’ and ‘eating meat’ in real sense of words, yet the analysis of ‘ the meeting’ and ‘EEET agenda’ appear to have taken into account the difficulties of Pak- US relationship and the back log of strains. It is refreshing to see analysts and anchors discussing in detail the contours of realpolitik. There is a resonance of realities of international politics like “there is no concept of friends in international politics”, “these are only interests that matter in international relations” and so on. Realistic approach and assessment is necessary for the benefit of general public who by and large try to see analogies in international relations and personal friendships.
The approach of media, taking into consideration few incidences during the visit of PM’s New York visit for UNGA, is well calculated and well articulated as compared to what it was on the occasion of visit of former President Asif Zardari in 2010. That visit took place in the aftermath of PM Cameron’s statement in India against Pakistan followed by floods . The visit was criticized by international and Pakistani media alike , but the long term outcomes revealed that it proved fruitful in communicating Pakistan’s point of view well in time and improving Pak – UK relations to an extent where PM Cameron on the occasion of President Obama’s visit to the UK said “ Pakistan’s enemy is our enemy and Pakistan’s friend is our friend” besides this the role played by Britain in getting concessions in access to European market for some 75 items of exports from Pakistan is not hidden from any one.
The very next day of Zardari – Cameron meeting two most influential and highly respected newspapers of Britain The Guardian and the Times had carried front page interviews of president Zardari with positive disposition and reflecting Pakistan’s point of view. Guardian’s headline was “The Triumphant Zardari” and the Times quoted president Zardari ” Don’t tell me about terrorism , my wife fell victim to it”. Pakistan suffers chronically for not communicating to the world effectively and that particular visit and meeting provided chance to communicate not only to PM Cameron but also to the world at large through international media. These positive aspects were ignored by Pakistani media altogether, whereas on the occasion of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit, media has rightly recognized the significance of confidence building measures and opening up channels of communications.
The re-positioning of communications is adopted by not only national media but also by Prime Minister himself in the context of discussions with American government and also the people of Pakistan. Besides EEET, vital issues like Kashmir and Drone attacks came on the fore front. Talking to media after the meeting Prime Minster Sharif didn’t play the trumpet of “all is well” and “the meeting was a big success” instead he chose to reveal the harsher sides and concerns expressed by President Obama on several issues.
The best thing that Prime Minister conveyed to the people of Pakistan is need for “putting our own house in order”. His statement is significant in bringing out Pakistan from denial mode. The bitter reality is that Pakistan is faced with several problems today only because we disowned those problems, and when the problems are left to be solved by the outsiders they solve them their way. Owning your mistakes and correcting them with an internal motivation is what brings confidence and self -respect to nations. Pakistan has numerous strengths but we are neither fully cognizant nor confident about them and never try to communicate to outside world with a position of strength because we never try to see realistically what we can do and what we need to do.
The biggest concern of United States at the moment is withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan next year and no country is in as important position as Pakistan due to its geo political advantage. It’s the time to take right decisions and making right choices and that is possible through internal auditing of our policies and extensive housekeeping with a view to convert our internal resources into strength.
In his previous government Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had successfully busted the myth of reliance on foreign aid in the aftermath of atomic explosions. Pakistan had come out of fear of default and economic disaster without foreign loans. This time he may try to break another myth by motivating people of Pakistan to mobilize internal resources and strengths for making decisions and choices most suitable for our national interests.
The short, medium and long term outcomes of Sharif- Obama meeting with reference to objectives would be revealed over period of time but the immediate outcome rather the by -product of this meeting (as it was not part of agenda) is the beginning of communicating realistically with people and taking a critical look at ourselves to realize and rectify our mistakes. A fresh start you may call it.