President Biden completes a year in office in a month, but has not made a single phone call to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. In choosing to give last week’s Summit for Democracy a miss, however, Islamabad gave the impression that its decision was dictated less by Washington’s snub and more by the exclusion of China for the event. The shifting sands of US-Pakistan relations and Beijing’s domineering shadow have the region in a flux. The events in Afghanistan have altered the dynamics drastically, so the message in the latest report on terrorism by the US State Department, for the year 2020, can only be important for the finer points and not a broad sweep of its contents.

Not for the first time, the Pakistan government and military have been put in a corner on several counts, be it acting inconsistently with respect to safe havens throughout the country, or not taking sufficient action to dismantle terrorist groups. Several UN and US-designated terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continue to operate from Pakistani soil, it says, pointing to the Haqqani Network, LeT and JeM. The presence of terror havens may have been presented as a justification for the US government continuing to suspend most of its security assistance to Pakistan, but what would not go unnoticed in New Delhi is the acknowledgement that ‘Pakistan made positive contributions to the Afghanistan peace process’, and its ‘additional progress toward completing the FATF action plan’.

The report begins with an admission of the terrorism threat becoming more geographically dispersed, requiring a marshalling of counterterrorism responses. It’s an appeal that India has overstated time and again at every global forum, but the support for any forceful-determined pushback to deal with a rogue neighbour may have fallen short of expectation. A lesson in the bits-and-pieces balancing act of strategic partners has been the importance of fortifying the national counter-terror charter, one that seeks normalisation of ties, but tightens grip on the terror tap.