Obama and Pak
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A fortnightly column on the high politics of the Af-Pak region, the fulcrum of global power play in India's neighbourhood
Obama and Pak
Pakistan's strategic community was among the least enthusiastic in the world about Barack Obama's re-election as president of the United States. This is not surprising, for few American leaders have played such hard ball with Pakistan as Obama.
In raiding Osama bin Laden's hideout without informing Rawalpindi and relentlessly raining drones on terror sanctuaries in Pakistan's western borderlands, Obama had made himself quite unpopular with the army and its proxies in Pakistan.
Obama also called Rawalpindi's bluff on denying America overland access to Afghanistan through Pakistani territory. While the alternative routes to supply US troops in Afghanistan were expensive, Washington demonstrated that it has other options.
The confrontation and recrimination of the last two years between Washington and Rawalpindi need not necessarily be a guide to US-Pakistan relations in the second term.
For its part, the Obama administration wants to renew the engagement with Pakistan. Rawalpindi's support is critical in ensuring an orderly US military exit from Afghanistan. Even more important, without the Pakistan army's cooperation, the US can't bring stability to Afghanistan.
These important objectives are likely to drive the Obama administration to establish a transactional relationship with the Pakistan army.
Rawalpindi is much chastened after its confrontation with Obama. Rawalpindi's claims that it could do without US support and that its alliance with Beijing would replace that with Washington has turned out to be unsustainable bravado.
Washington and Rawalpindi might have begun to dislike each other intensely over the last two years. Yet, they can't do without each other, at least for a while longer. So long as Afghanistan remains at the top of the agenda in Washington, so will Pakistan.