Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari says Pakistan does not see India as a threat. Great!
But the 1.5 billion dollar a year question is what does General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the all powerful chief of the army staff think.
Does he also think India is not a threat. Will there be a change in the training of future generations of Pakistan army officers at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul. Will the training now change to fighting the Taliban they trained, armed and guided all along. If not, these are mere words meant for a western audience.
Ultimately Asif Ali Zardari does not call the shots in Pakistan. Neither does prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. They may say so. But that is because General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani lets them. Ultimately General Kayani and the army he commands decide who is Pakistan's friend, enemy or `strategic ally' . India or the Taliban.
From being called the terror epicentre of the world to having all the ingredients of an `international migrane' Pakistan is under tremendous pressure to `crack down' on the cancer of terror. Pakistan army has started yet another operations. Actually the third operation against Taliban.
The first two ended as failures because of lack of will to fight a `strategic ally.' The third is under an international microscope. Asif Ali Zardari is in the US looking for that 1.5 billion dollars a year aid. But US president Barack Obama has made it clear there are no blank cheques anymore. So this Operation Black Thunder is Pakistan trying to earn the money. But is Pakistan seriously trying ?
US secretary defence Robert Gates says Pakistan does not have the capability to fight terror. But does Pakistan have the will ? That's the bigger question. Capabilities can be acquired. But the will has to come from within. Officers of the Pakistan army may have trained at the Military Academy in Kakul but they fought shoulder to shoulder with the Taliban militia against the Soviets. They killed and braved bullets together. That bond formed during war. Is the international pressure enough to break that bond ?
If Operation Black Thunder is a face saving operation it is bound to fail, like the earlier two operations. If it is a real operation for the ``survival of Pakistan'' as both the President and the prime minister claim, then more transparency is required. On May 8th Zardari said about 145 `nasties' had been killed. In less than 72 hours his internal security minister Rahman Malik claimed 700 militants had been killed. Where are the bodies ? Is this just propaganda ?
Pakistan can ill afford to let the Taliban get away this time. Cancer cannot be treated with asprin and half hearted military operations are just like asprin. Temporary relief but the disease strikes back with a vengence.
Rahman Malik also said operations should be over soon. That again should have alarm bells ringing in the international security establishment. Anti-terrorist operations are a long drawn affair - they last years and years. And the problem needs to be addressed not just militarily. A three-week-long or a month long operation will not cure the Taliban cancer. This is a wake up call not just for Pakistan but even for the United States.
To get the maximum bang for their buck, the US will have to keep a hawkeye on the Pakistan army and its operations against the Taliban.