By design or by sheer coincidence, Washington took Thursday as the day of the drones — even as Pakistan was hosting the trilateral summit meeting with Afghanistan and Iran. The political symbolism couldn’t have been lost on the protagonists. Twenty-one people were killed on Thursday, which was the highest since the drone attacks resumed last month. Drones kept hovering above the skies of North Waziristan the whole day.
Curiously, there has not been a word of criticism by the Pakistani leadership, civilian or military. Not even by Imran Khan. The Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would have certainly wondered there is something very strange going on between Washington and Islamabad they are not privy to. The trilateral summit took place amidst thick political fog surrounding Pakistan’s gameplan.
Thus, a summit that was long postponed and although not expected to produce any big results but could still have been a moderate success, actually ended in a whimper
. If the Pakistani hope was to fire from the Afghan and Iranian shoulders and create some negotiating space for itself by the time the chief of US Central Command Gen. James Mattis arrived in Islamabad next week , the end result is that Washington has been the winner out of the trilateral summit.
Pakistan took care not to ruffle US feathers and held back from giving any firm commitments
on the implementation of the gas pipeline project with Iran. The project is the litmus test of Pakistan’s willingness to move forward in relations with Iran.
From the Iranian statements, it appears Tehran kept the expectations low — and stuck to generalities and goodwill statements
. What matters most to Tehran today is that Pakistan doesn’t have a relapse and resumes the bad old habit of harboring Iranian terrorists belonging to Jundullah who used to indulge in covert trans-border operations from their Pakistani sanctuaries. Iran has been enjoying a respite from trans-boder terrorism for an year. Iran has its own approach to the Afghan problem and much as it would like to harmonise with Pakistan, it also has a the capacity to safeguard its interests and draws on a long historical memory over the Pakistani policies of ’strategic depth’.
Ahmedinejad repeated the Iranian position on the hegemonistic ambitions
of extra-regional powers and left things at that. The trilateral summit failed to come up with any initiatives on the Afghan problem. And, the main ‘outcome’ of the event, ironically, turns out to be that Afghan-Pakistani ties nosedived.
Karzai apparently came with a resolute mind
to call a spade a spade. From various accounts, he didn’t mince words in his meeting with the Pakistani leadership and demanded that Pakistan should summon Mullah Omar from the attic of its house in Rawalpindi and get him to talk.
Evidently, Pakistan is taunting Karzai with insulting remarks. What happens now? It’s apparently ‘Advantage Mattis’. But such eruption of Afghan-Pakistani discord also creates problems for the US as it hopes to shepherd all relevant parties into one coherent journey before the NATO summit is held in Chicago in May. Maybe, Washington could learn from Moscow how it reconciled with Zia ul-Haq’s delaying tactic at the Geneva talks.