Pakistan has sat out the US pressure tactic and the wheel seems to have come full circle. The US has begun backing away from its strident rhetoric threatening Pakistan with fire and brimstone. Actually, the whole exercise was surreal. It seems there was some turf war between the Pentagon (plus CIA) and the State Department, with the White House finally opting for the State Department line for negotiations with Pakistan. The State Department is rapidly toning down the threatening rhetoric held out by the Pentagon.
Interestingly, the US has refrained from blacklisting the Haqqani group as a terrorist outfit. Instead, a clutch of individuals have been put on the list of terrorists. Indeed, US is keeping open the door to negotiate with the Haqqanis at some stage. How do you negotiate peace if you don’t talk to the enemy faction with the strongest firepower and fighting calibre?
Good sense seems to have prevailed. The US has no alternative but to carry Pakistan along. Its Afghan policy is in such disarray that Pakistan may soon be called upon to to lead the partnership in the coming period. Senator Richard Lugar’s stunning admission that US pledged an impressive amount of aid to Pakistan but actually disbursed only a measly amount implies that Washington has very little leverage over Islamabad.
On the contrary, the supply lines through Pakistan for the NATO forces in Afghanistan; the fact that the peace process is in a cul-de-sac; the failure of the US efforts to talk directly with the Taliban; the strong affirmation of Chinese support to Pakistan; the shortening timeline for Barack Obama; the failure of ‘surge’ policy; the impracticality of the drawdown schedule; Hamid Karzai’s weaknesses — all these place the US on the back foot.
India did well distancing itself from the US’s inconsistent, reckless course in Afghanistan. The Indian lobbyists have been clamouring that Delhi should capitalise on the recent US-Pakistan rift to align itself with Washington and pile pressure on Pakistan. What a flight of fancy bordering on naivety!