New ISI Chief’s First U.S. Visit – What the Need of the Time Says?

The previously postponed and much-awaited visit of the new head of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam, has finally arrived. He will meet the U.S. intelligence officials in a three-day visit from August 1st to 3rd in Washington, D.C said an ISPR Short statement sent to Media via SMS. The visit was delayed due to some “pressing commitments” the newly-appointed ISI chief had to handle at home. Without doubting that there must be some tactical reasons behind the postponement to get some kind of an edge, the visit is laden with hopes.

This is the first time the new ISI chief is making a visit to the U.S. since assuming office in March this year. May be he might prove to be a better strategist than the previous one. The ISI chief will discuss matters on counter-terror cooperation and intelligence sharing. If any end is to be put in the Afghanistan’s story, it is important that the military officials of the U.S. and Pakistan work cordially. Thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers have been killed in this War on Terror for Pakistan’s less appreciated role as the frontline state. The U.S. has accepted its mistake and presented a “near apology” for the notorious Salala incident, which killed 28 Pakistani soldiers at the two army checkpoints in November last year.

Keeping in mind the context of the recent tensions for the U.S. that have developed especially due to the seven-month blockade the NATO supplies in Afghanistan faced and the sentencing of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the doctor responsible for aiding the CIA to locate Osama bin Laden, this visit is expected to bring in some change in the attitudes on both sides and bridge the ever-growing gulf in relations and trust between Pakistan and the United States. The area where the diplomats should succeed in maintaining and fostering of ties, but have failed to bring the two nations together, may be the ISI could talk some sense into this game of a tic-tac-toe which does not offer many moves on the table.

Amidst all this, the U.S. drone strikes continue with the same frequency that harm and kill Pakistani civilians, despite being requested and then demanded by Pakistan to stop the air strikes.
Thus, going into this visit, the emphasis would again be laid by the ISI chief on stopping these drone attacks and this time the ISI chief is being looked upon to seal the deal once and for all.

The U.S. again got away with having a kind of an upper hand by reopening of the NATO supplies to Afghanistan. The strategies which would be presented from Pakistan’s side in this visit have already been discussed by the civil and military leaders of the country in a meeting.

Now what the civil-military leadership of Pakistan wants is again a kind of a compromise or a mid-way where “new options” would be “explored” as an “alternative for drone attacks”.

This “alternative” is being reported as some kind of a replacement for the U.S. drone attacks that Pakistan would propose. It would also be better for military cooperation that the drone technology be shared with Pakistan too. The main idea that Pakistani military officials are propounding is that the U.S. pinpoints a target and inform Pakistani military and intelligence
command. The target would then be destroyed by the ISI itself. Such an intelligence sharing requires high-levels of trust between the two countries. The main aim is to basically avoid collateral damage and the grievances that results amongst the Pakistani nation, thus harbouring anti-US sentiments in people.

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