After months of bluff and bluster and chest-thumping protests to defend the nation’s ‘honour’, the Kangaroo Republic of Pakistan lies prostrate before the United States, the country it loves to damn after becoming a Chinese colony. The rhetoric of painting the US as evil has suddenly been replaced by conciliatory words that clearly show that the land of the pure just can’t do without Uncle Sam—its diplomatic, economic and military power.
Suddenly there is a discovery in Pakistan that the two Cold War-era ‘allies’ are returning into each other’s arms after by now a familiar periodic tiffs. Incredibly, Pakistan even admits—after years of resentment—that it has heeded to the US dictate of ‘do more’ and agreed to weed out the toxic jehadis (‘snakes) it has been breeding in its backyard for over three decades.
The rescue of a Canadian-American couple with their three children, after five years in captivity inside Pakistan, has been widely cited in Pakistan—and the US—as Islamabad’s readiness to go after the jihadi Islamists who routinely take shelter inside territories controlled by Pakistan. The US President, Donald Trump looks pleased with a genuflecting Pakistan which has ‘done more’ to-ostensibly-start cooperating in hunting the ISI proxies that come under various names like the Afghan Taliban also known as the Haqqani Network, .
Of course, Trump has only those terrorist groups in mind that harm Americans or American interests in Afghanistan; India-centric groups like LeT and JeM are not on Trump’s radar.
The Pakistanis learn from their officials that the Canadian-US couple’s return to freedom was made possible because of the Pakistan army’s operation inside the tribal territory close to Afghanistan, as though without the crucial US role.
What Pakistanis are not told is that the rescue mission began after the Americans supplied intelligence to the Pakistanis and kept an eye over the operation to eliminate chances of the rogue Pak army from deliberately botching up the rescue act. It speaks volumes of how the Pakistanis continue to fool the Americans when the intelligence about terror groups comes from the US, not their own spy networks.
Much is being made of a recent statement of the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, that Pakistan is a ‘reliable partner’. Either the top US diplomat was resorting to plain lie or he was, in turn, trying to fool the Pakistanis into believing that all is forgotten and forgiven.
A better way to look at Tillerson’s reported statement is that his cabinet colleague, Gen James Mattis, has said that the US was trying ‘one more time’ to work with the Pakistanis in the continued fight against terror. This remark renders irrelevant another statement of his that Pakistan has ‘done a lot’ to tame ‘terrorists’. Of course, he was not referring to all terrorist networks that find ‘safe havens’ (a favourite US term) inside Pakistan. But ‘one more time’ is an expression that sounds more like a warning than cautionary optimism.
Like all his predecessors, President Trump may think that Pakistan is needed for resolving the Afghan conundrum and usher in peace and stability in that mountainous country. That gives the Pakistanis some room to continue with blackmail of the US. But what has begun to give sleepless nights to the Pakistanis is that even after saying something good about Pakistan Trump has shown an unmistakable desire to involve India in the reconstruction and redevelopment of Afghanistan.
In the myopic world of Pakistan, even the slightest Indian footprint on Afghan soil spells doom for them. The concept of ‘strategic depth’ is dearly pursued by Pakistan—seeking complete dominance over Afghanistan, politically and militarily. The Americans would probably not mind it but for the fact that the only way Pakistan can take control of Afghanistan is by having the Taliban take over the reins. This will be anathema to the US and the rest of the world. Even the Chinese, the all-weather friend of Pakistan, will not welcome it because the Taliban in power will provide strength to the ethnic Muslim rebels in western China.
It is for Indian diplomacy to not let the Pakistanis hoodwink the US and the world by maneuvering a Taliban government takeover in Afghanistan. Pakistan may pretend to proscribe religious extremists and terror groups but allows them full freedom to operate under different names. Pakistan has unleashed a full diplomatic offensive to stop India from increasing its presence in Afghanistan where India is well-liked both by the government as well as the people. This is opposite of the near universal distrust and dislike for Pakistan in its western neighbourhood.