US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates has expressed hope that the United States over a period of time will be able to reduce the trust deficit with Pakistan, whom he identified as a key American ally in the war against terrorism.
Responding to a question at the Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Gates acknowledged that this trust deficit, for which according to him the US is responsible to some extent, is being exploited by religious extremists and religious elites in Pakistan.
"Well, it's not just the religious elite. There is what we have called a deficit of trust between the United States and Pakistan. And if you look at it from the Pakistani's standpoint, there is some justification for their concerns," Gates said.
"I won't even mention their attitude toward us with respect to the wars with India, but just taking as an example the way we turned our back upon Afghanistan in 1989, they considered it an abandonment. And then we imposed sanctions on them in 1992, thereabouts, that basically cut off our military-to-military relationship for a dozen years," he said.
"So their view is that in several successive instances, the United States has turned its back on Pakistan. And the biggest question they have is, once you're done in Afghanistan, are you going home again, or do we have a long-term relationship?" he said.
"And what we've been trying to do is convince both the Pakistanis and the Afghans that once we're successful in the endeavour we're in Afghanistan, that we intend to have a long-term relationship with both countries, and that we aren't going to turn our backs on them," Gates said.
"Now, all these things are exploited by the extremists. There's no question about it. And I have to say, regardless of the anti-American sentiment on the part of many Pakistanis, what the Pakistani army has done in the northwest frontier area and in South Waziristan and Swat and so on has been immensely helpful to us," he said, adding that this has been immensely helpful to us.
Noting that Pakistan Army is moving in a direction, and they are taking action in places where he thought would have been impossible some 18 moths or two years ago, Gates said: "They are doing it because it's in their own interest, but they are willing more and more to work closely with us."
Gates said: "It's going to proceed slowly, but I think we are headed in the right direction. And I think that over time we will be able to reduce that deficit of trust with Pakistan as we show that we're committed to staying there and to developing the relationship over the long term."