Is US so gullible that it falls for Pak ploys?

The recent release of the US National Security Strategy (NSS) by President Donald Trump has put Islamabad on its guard

In its relationship with the United States, Pakistan has learnt over the years to game America. It has learnt from experience that the best way to do this is to hold out the grim prospect of the breakout of a nuclear war with India. In the past this proved enough to make Washington rush its mandarins to both New Delhi and Islamabad to counsel restraint. What typically followed was a lollipop of aid to Pakistan, and suitable words of caution to India along with appeals to the kindred values of democracy.

India must make it clear to the Americans that India will now reject such standards of conduct by Washington, and that it reserves the right to conduct ties with Islamabad on terms it alone sees fit. This may prove to be a challenge to the Narendra Modi government, which has tried to go out of its way to please America. But the national interest must take precedence above everything else. The recent release of the US National Security Strategy (NSS) by President Donald Trump has put Islamabad on its guard. In order to deflect focus, in public remarks Pakistan’s national security adviser Lt. Gen. Nasir Janjua (Retd) on Monday threatened a “nuclear” conflict with India, that he dramatically said could be “one mistake away”. His rationale is that India is engaging in a massive buildup of conventional weapons against Pakistan and threatening that country’s security.

All this is hocus-pocus and the Americans would be willingly gullible if they are taken in. The real point Mr Janjua makes is to plead with the Americans that its strategy is too harsh on Islamabad, and to soften its implementation. It must also be said that the strategy itself gives Pakistan wiggle-room by indicating the prospect of the deterioration of India-Pakistan relations to the point of a nuclear exchange remains a matter of concern to Washington. This is the point Mr Janjua has latched on to and exploited to reinforce traditional US fears. The US would be foolish if it doesn't see through the game. In fact, it should insist Pakistan fulfil the terms that the NSS lays out. These are that Islamabad take “decisive action” against terrorist groups operating on its territory, and take demonstrable steps to intensify counter-terrorism operations, for which the US has paid Pakistan $33 billion since 9/11, but hasn't seen commensurate results. The NSS has quite appropriately linked trade with results on the counter-terrorism front.

India should put Washington on test and hold it to its declared strategy. Mr Janjua has grumbled that America’s Afghanistan strategy announced in August privileges India. It’s up to Washington to choose its own strategies, and reply to Pakistan the way it wants. But it’s also India’s domain to deal with both Islamabad and Washington on terms beneficial to it.