An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Is Pakistan taking on US in a high stakes gamble?

Pakistan seems to be digging a greater hole for itself. It has played its hand way over its “pay grade” by going after US and snubbing them openly.

First it was a snub to Obama – where the US President had given an invite to Pakistan’s Zardari at the last minute with the hope of getting the route for NATO supplies opened. There was no deal.

When the White House sent a last-minute invitation for Asif Ali Zardari to attend the two-day NATO summit, they were taking a highly public gamble. Would sharing the spotlight with President Barack Obama and other global leaders induce the Pakistan president to allow vital supplies to reach alliance troops fighting in Afghanistan?

But long before the summit ended Monday, the answer was clear: No deal.

Zardari’s refusal to re-open the supply routes left a diplomatic blot on a summit that NATO sought to cast as the beginning of the end of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Just before that, in the negotiations with US Defense Secretary Leo Panetta, Pakistani officials demanded a 30 times increase in the transit fees to $5000 for each truck carrying supplies for troops in Afghanistan across its territory.

US Defence Secretary Leon E. Panetta, meanwhile, told L.A. Times that he planned to confront Pakistan over what he considered price gouging for transport of supplies to Afghanistan and hoped for a ‘consensus’ among allies over the war effort.

Mr Panetta ruled out paying Pakistan $5,000 for each truck carrying supplies across its territory for Nato troops in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have demanded that amount as a condition for reopening supply routes that have been closed to the alliance since fall.

Pakistan is doing this with the assumption that US has no alternatives to it in moving its supplies to its troops in Afghanistan and denying them the route will mean the end of US engagement in Afghanistan. That may not be the only way this game may go.

For example, there is a Northern Distribution Network and route option available to the Americans. It is not cheap, but then price gouging by the Pakistanis is not acceptable either.

US officials have indicated that it has been about three to four times more expensive (or about $38 million more per month) for the US and NATO to rely solely on the so-called Northern Distribution Network through the Baltic states, Russia, and Central Asia. But the cutoff of Pakistani routes did not force the US to alter the tempo of its military operations inside Afghanistan. Moreover, many of the countries involved in the Northern Distribution Network showed eagerness to continue to serve as supply routes both into and out of Afghanistan in order to receive transit fees.

In fact, Russia is reportedly considering allowing NATO to use one of its airfields to move troops and non-lethal cargo to and from Afghanistan. While Pakistan still represents potentially the cheapest and most efficient transit route for supplies, the US and NATO have other options if Pakistan continues to make unrealistic demands.

Another Nail in the Coffin?

Meanwhile, close on the heels of this controversy on the NATO Supply Routes, comes another action by Pakistan that will further push US to move against it.

A Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. track down Osama bin Laden has been convicted of high treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison, according to a government official.

Nasir Khan said Shakil Afridi was also ordered Wednesday to pay a fine of about $3,500. If he doesn’t pay, he will spend another three and half years in prison. Mr. Khan is a government official in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal area, where Dr. Afridi was tried.

So basically, Pakistanis are suggesting that Osama Bin Laden was a national asset and anyone who has compromised his security is guilty of “High Treason”.

Now, that may take the trajectory of Pakistan into an area it might repent later – of Terrorist States!

Wonder if the Pakistani population and its Government agencies understand this situation, but any country who has played its hand over the top, usually gets messed up by the US. And the process starts by framing that nation in a corner.

Currently, an entire case is being prepared for framing Pakistan in the corner, where unilteral or multi-lateral action can be taken against it. Due to Pak’s nukes, it may not be easy, but so wasn’t eliminating Osama.

One hopes that there is someone intelligent in the country to avoid this disaster waiting to happen in our neighborhood. But if my reading of Pakistan and its mindset is correct, it is hurling itself over the cliff in a hurry. And the mood is of self destruction along with destroying others. And it might involve unprecedented use of Nukes in such a situation.

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