Body Language and Trade in Pakistan

The meeting between U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, Admiral Mike Mullen, and Pakistan’s foreign minister apparently got a bit tense:

The normally urbane and mild-mannered Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, was firm and spoke in categorical terms.

Meanwhile, Richard Holbrooke chatted quietly with Admiral Mike Mullen — an act that, whatever the intention, was perceived as rude and contemptuous by those present.

I’m told that this looked really bad in the footage shown on Pakistani television.

Someone recently made the point to me that when thinking about the so-called “Af-Pak” dynamic, it’s important to understand that in Afghanistan most of the population is basically sympathetic to the American mission there. In Pakistan, it’s a very different situation. It’s not as if the bulk of Pakistanis are “against us” in the sense of looking to hijack airliners and crash them into American office buildings, but the United States is generally viewed unsympathetically and our actions in the region are seen as harmful. One thing that could potentially help to turn this around would be for the U.S. to drop our barriers on imports from Pakistan, something that would impact Pakistanis lives in a positive way and not actually “cost” us anything.