The Dec. 4 meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi went without the fireworks feared by many, given the general’s reputation as a tough customer. Needless to say, the real interlocutor on the Pakistan side was the GHQ and that was where the real “substantive” exchange had already been held through normal channels. Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, not too long ago, announced that Pakistan didn’t need to “do more” in Afghanistan and asked America to “do more” instead.
As opposed to President Donald Trump’s rather unbuttoned style, the U.S. secretary of defense was “understanding” of Pakistan’s problems but asked for a “positive, consistent and long-term relationship” to get rid of ongoing problems. The big problem, of course, is that of cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan, of which the Ghani government in Kabul currently only controls half. Kabul and Washington insist that not all the assaults are without the consent of Pakistan; they think the Haqqani Network is actually given safe haven inside Pakistan to launch cross-border attacks as policy. The ongoing drone attacks in Pakistan’s Kurram Agency make the point: the Network, it is implied, has been shifted from North Waziristan to Kurram Agency.
What didn’t come out in public is Pakistan’s real beef, and that is Indian presence in Kabul, which allegedly orchestrates terrorist attacks inside Pakistan by funding the Taliban groups Pakistan has driven out into Afghanistan with two tough operations: Zarb-e-Azb and Radd al-Fasad. Pakistan has gone public with confessional evidence that terrorism in Pakistan is being directed by India. This complicates the map of conflict and defines the limits of America’s own ability to affect developments. Its less overt Afghan policy is demission of an untenable undertaking by allowing India to share the burden of the regional commitment. The tables have turned: from America siding with Pakistan in the region to America siding with India in the new cold war. Islamabad has to play its card carefully and with less nationalist fervor, given its commitment to peace through trade as embodied in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.