The fallout of the al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s killing in a US raid on Abbotabad is still playing out across South Asia, with Pakistan caught up in the centre of the storm. Islamabad is not only facing renewed “do more” demands from Washington but also from New Delhi.
In fact, India has found an opportunity to seek a global focus on Pakistan’s alleged support to terror networks and tried to draw US attention towards the need to also act against India-centric extremist groups. Besides, India has also sent its own list of 50 terrorists which includes the names of Jamat-u-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim.
But in a farcical turn of events, the two persons whose names figure in the list have been found to be in India itself. However, New Delhi will duly send a corrected list to Islamabad. US, on the other hand, has signaled its lack of trust in Pakistan and accused the country of duplicity in its cooperation in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Only China has chosen to stand with Pakistan. Beijing has urged the US to acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terror networks. However, while it is too early to judge the aftermath of Osama killing in the region, it nevertheless presages the broad contours of the new geo-politics of the region.
US despite its recent surge in Kabul to beat back the advancing Taliban looks set for a gradual withdrawal from the next year. And given the current state of Afghanistan, it is unlikely that Taliban will be defeated in such a short duration.
The religious army has already held on for more than eight years and is likely to wait out US. This calls for a drastic overhaul of the US policies in the region. Washington would need a broader regional approach to sort out the three decades long mess in Afghanistan which it has had a primary role in creating in the first place. So far, the war has by and large been prosecuted as a Kabul centric venture with Pakistan serving as a logistical staging post.
Despite acknowledging the need to address the faultlines in regional geo-politics as a way out of the Kabul, Washington has been slow to reconcile the interests of the different countries in Kabul’s neighbourhood and align these towards a common goal of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. And the two most important countries which need to be brought on board are India and Pakistan.
The interests of the two countries are diametrically opposite in Afghanistan. Both countries are looking for greater leverage in the post-US Afghanistan and none of them is ready to budge. One of the biggest reason for this rivalry is the unresolved dispute over Kashmir.
And this is a reality that various think tanks in US have underlined from time to time. Helping address this longstanding problem between the two countries would go a long way in ushering in the long delayed reconciliation in the region. Consequently making the countries a participant in the peace enterprise in Kabul rather than working at cross purposes. But the question is whether US has the will and the time to make this effort.