By Monday it was clear that there was no deal to be had between the US and Pakistan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) summit in Chicago, resultantly, resembled a camp divided: the US and its European partners on one side and Pakistan on the other. The latter controls most of the chess pieces.
BBC reported three demands by the US’ sullen partner: an apology for the death of soldiers during a Nato mission in Salala in November; a review of US policy on drone attacks in Pakistan and a 20-fold increase in the transit charge per vehicle from $250 to $5,000 that uses Pakistani territory to reach Afghanistan. These are demands that the US is unlikely to meet. An apology for the Salala incident has been ruled out. The use of drones as an instrument to weed out terrorists is too deeply embedded in the US strategy to be abandoned at this stage.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai (R) talks to Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen during a meeting on Afghanistan at the NATO summit in Chicago(Reuters)
There is a simple message in the demands: Pakistan does not want the US to establish political order in Afghanistan. Any semblance of centralized authority after 2014 runs counter to Pakistan’s interests there: a strong Afghanistan is likely to look after its own interests, which are unlikely to be congruent with those of Pakistan. Instead, if a proxy such as the Taliban were to gain control there, it will serve Islamabad’s purposes admirably. That is the message behind the three demands mentioned above.
At this moment, it is difficult to presage what 2014 will bring in Afghanistan. Some things are, however, plain as a pikestaff. The Afghan National Army is unlikely to be in any shape to withstand a Pakistan-backed assault by the Taliban. In Afghanistan, a central authority is as good as the army it has even at the best of times. And these are not good times. It is likely that the chaos of the post-Soviet years will come to haunt Afghanistan of the post-American years.
India should take note of these developments and prepare. Pakistan has not, even for a moment, abandoned strategic goals on its western border in spite of severe US pressure; it is most unlikely to do so on its eastern front.
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