The Pakistan-US strategic dialogue, which has become more of a taking Pakistan to task for the US, is about to take place again from October 22, and in preparation of the agenda from the Pakistani side, the Troika (President, PM and COAS) held a meeting on Saturday. It appears that Pakistan will take up the drone attacks issue as well as the US arrears on payment of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). It is good if the Pakistani side has finally decided to withdraw its support for the drone attacks in which primarily Pakistani civilians are being killed and one hopes that the Pakistani side will categorically state that it will respond in kind if any drone attacks take place. One hopes that the Pakistani side will not lose resolve in the face of US pressure in Washington. As for the CSF arrears, since the CSF is purely for services rendered by the Pakistani military for the US war on terror, Pakistan needs to take a stand that states clearly that all services for the US stand suspended till the arrears are cleared. After all, this is no aid but purely money for services rendered and which has reduced our military to a quasi-mercenary status. However, beyond this, there are other crucial issues which should also dominate the agenda this time. There should be a no-compromise demand that Pakistan must be included in the Afghan dialogue with the Taliban and India excluded from having any such access. After all, this issue directly impacts our internal and external security dynamics. Equally vital is the issue of a full-scale military operation in NWA which the Foreign Office has already stated will only be done according to our priorities. But the US pushes on, on this front and we need to make this point firmly to the US. In fact, the time has come to either make the strategic dialogue truly one between partners, not master and slave, or to abandon it altogether. Let it not become like the FoDP forum where increasingly the occasion is used to browbeat Pakistan into accepting externally-dictated conditionalities with no aid or debt write-offs being committed to by these so-called friends. Apparently the Foreign Minister briefed the Troika but one wonders whether he told them the disastrous truth about the FoDP meeting in Brussels? It is also interesting to note that the two IMF surrogates running our economy, Drs Shaikh and Haq, will also be part of the official delegation and one wonders whether they will play the role of moles and undermine Pakistans positions on strategic matters? This time round let us hope those who can hold the hard line from Islamabad can stay in control of the dialogue from the Pakistani side, rather than the usual compromisers, because the people of Pakistan are done with their states alliance on the so-called war on terror with the US. It is time the government took cognisance of this reality and created the necessary space between us and the US. The choice is stark now for our rulers: Pakistan first or the US.